Article Date: 6/1/2003

contact lens management
Help For The New Reality
Can O.D.s still generate profits and satisfied patients from contact lenses?
DOUGLAS VILLELLA, O.D.

Is the contact lens base of your practice secure? In the United States, about 35% of patients currently receive their contact lenses by mail. Only 10% of these are provided by an eyecare professional. Patients seek convenience in lens replacement, whether it's by phone, Internet or mass merchandiser. They typically purchase mail-order contacts after 6:00 p.m., when most of our offices are closed. Mail-order companies report growth each year -- growth that comes from our practices!

Checking the trend

The traditional responses to the mail-order trend are these:

Have the patient order one year's supply. However, for many this expense can be excessive and when a patient's contact lens supply is exhausted, they shop for convenience and price elsewhere.

Lower our contact lens replacement fee. We see suppliers in the non-optical sector offering lenses for less than we pay wholesale; can we afford to give them away?

Increase our service fees. This makes up revenue losses, but overpricing a fee has never attracted patients to my practice. Nor does it aid patient compliance.

Fit private-label lenses. This works only if a patient is insensitive to the barrage of marketing information (everywhere from the television to the grocery store checkout line) that informs her of cheaper, more convenient alternatives.

So how do we provide patients with the value and convenience they seek, maintain the highest possible standard of care, and continue to make a reasonable profit?

Sauflon has a plan

Sauflon Pharmaceuticals' home-delivery service for private practices supplies prescription lenses and solutions directly to patients. Based on experience with patients worldwide, Sauflon recognized that if patients remain supplied and their costs are spread over the course of the year, then they don't shop around. The company ships to my patients every three or six months and only under my control.

With 400 patients in the program, increased profits and satisfied patients have become the norm in my practice. Compliance with wearing schedules has improved and reactions from generic solutions have been eliminated. I outsourced my billing and inventory to Sauflon (they charge the patient's credit card and remit the profit to me). I now receive a monthly check instead of a quarterly inventory invoice. And for the first time, I have confidence that my patients are purchasing replacement lenses and solutions from my office.

The program is easy to administer. My staff registers patients with a brief form; there are no contracts. The lenses currently available are the Sauflon 55 UV spherical lens and CooperVision's Encore Toric -- both approved for two- or four-week replacement. You can include Sauflon's Lite Multi-Purpose Solution in shipments.

The proof is in the profits

An analysis of the program was staggering: A $30,500 profit, vs. a $14,400 profit if I hadn't switched. My patients pay nothing additional. Sauflon says to expect triple profits at the end of year two. Why? Because the average practice loses 35% to 40% of its contact lens purchases to the non-optical sector. I lose a nominal eight percent.

In my experience, everyone is a winner with the Sauflon home delivery program -- you, your patient and your staff. You can reach Sauflon Pharmaceuticals at (800) 635-6967.

DR. VILLELLA IS IN PRIVATE PRACTICE IN ERIE, PA. HE IS PRESIDENT OF THE VOLUNTEER OPTOMETRIC SERVICE TO HUMANITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO ELIMINATING AVOIDABLE BLINDNESS IN GUATEMALA BY 2020.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2003