Does the New Law Offer Opportunity?
Now that contact lens patients receive
Rxs, it's time to re-evaluate service.
FROM THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR, Jim Thomas
T he Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, which became effective on February 4 (see page 12), requires eyecare professionals
(ECPs) to release contact lens prescriptions to their patients. The law also mandates that sellers verify prescriptions before they sell contact lenses.
The responses to the law
I found several responses to the new law at the recent Contact Lens & Eyecare Symposium
(CLES) in Orlando. Some doctors reported that they plan to maintain patient satisfaction and practice profitability by offering lenses that aren't available through retail channels. All doctors recommended establishing fitting fees. On page 42, Nancy S. Barr,
O.D., discusses this opportunity in her feature on profitability.
Optometrists told me that ECPs also need to evaluate how they present prescriptions. This is the first opportunity most doctors will get to introduce the law to patients, some of whom view contact lenses more as commodities than as medical devices. Often-reputable sources support this view. For example, Consumer Reports analyst Ami Gadhia speaks of "consumers" who were "forced to buy contact lenses only from their eye doctors, who have used the power to withhold their prescriptions to lock patients into higher-priced lenses."
A few presentation tips
CLES, doctors advocated a positive approach to prescription release that emphasizes education, not "power" or "withholding." They recommended the following steps:
- Explain to the patient that the new law requires ECPs to present prescriptions to patients. Prescriptions are necessary because contact lenses are medical devices.
- If you want patients to order from you, then explain the value your practice brings to the order fulfillment process. What unique services or products do you offer? Mail-order companies generally offer only one service -- home delivery. Retailers rely on price, not service.
- Be wary of competing on price alone. If you can't profit from a particular lens, then instead of restocking the lens, consider taking that money and investing it elsewhere in your practice.
Tell us your answer
I invite you to share with us how this new law will affect your practice by answering the "Quick Poll" at www.optometricmanagement.com. We'll present the results in an upcoming issue.
Optometric Management, Issue: February 2004