Article Date: 11/1/2005

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Why Don't We Sell More Eyeglasses?
These four myths will tell you why.

Which is better, one or two, three or four? I'm not talking about performing a refraction. Rather, I'm asking which is more profitable for your dispensary: selling one pair of glasses or selling three or four, or maybe five or six? The answer is easy. We'd all like to do a better job in our optical and we've all read and heard about "lifestyle" dispensing and "multiple" dispensing. Yet, historically O.D.s do a poor job of selling glasses, let alone multiple pairs, and the core reason is because they have succumbed to the following four myths.

Eyeglasses with high-index materials, AR coatings, photochromic and progressive lenses would probably be considered "fully-loaded" by most practitioners and patients. Yet even these premium lenses have limitations. Heavy computer users and most athletes wouldn't do well with these options. Those who do a lot of continuous distance or close work (like a truck driver or an accountant) might do better with single vision lenses. So, while the technology available in both frames and lenses has increased exponentially in the last few years, we still don't have a "one pair does it all" eyeglass modality. There are still some comprises with most eyeglasses. Certainly one reason we don't do more multiple dispensing is because we have become mesmerized by, and complacent about, new technology.

There's no question third-party payers have taken their toll on our optical sales. However, many doctors have let this become a psychological barrier and excuse in building their businesses. A managed care patient who says, "I only want what the plan covers," is the equivalent of a cash patient saying, "I have a fixed amount of money to spend on eyewear and I want to maximize every dollar." Viewed this way, a managed care patient's "allowance" can be positioned as a savings for the patient that now allows him or her to purchase additional eyewear. "Mrs. Jones, I have great news for you. Dr. Bill has written you two prescriptions and your insurance covers one of them. That means you're only responsible for the second pair."

Contrast this with the emotion many doctors experience when they discover a patient has insurance and is not a cash patient. Before he or she even greets the patient in the exam room the doctor has decided that the patient only wants what the plan covers! This profit-draining, self-fulfilling prophecy rears its head again when the doctor transfers the patient to his optical staff. "Mary, Mr. Specs needs a pair of glasses and he has XYZ insurance."

That might be right. Or it might be wrong. But multiple dispensing isn't about forecasting expenses for your patient. It's about doing what's best for your patients regardless of their perceived financial status. You are your patients' eye doctor — not their financial advisor. And, as the eye doctor you should be recommending whatever eyewear is best for your patient's visual needs and lifestyle.

Doc, I have news for you. If your staff doesn't "get it," it's your fault. Unquestionably, your staff obtains their sales and dispensing philosophies from you. Your personality and view of multiple dispensing percolates down to your staff through your continuous behavior, no matter how subtle. Pinning poor sales on staff is an excuse that needs to be addressed by you, the practice CEO and leader. OM


New technology lenses and frames decrease the need for multiple sales.


Patients only want what the plan covers.


My patients can't afford more than one pair of glasses.


I believe in multiple dispensing, but my staff doesn't.

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2005