Trouble with Withholding
When patients seek the best care, should you
prejudge their willingness to pay?
THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR Jim Thomas
a practice withhold a recommendation for a product or service based on the assumption
that the patient is either unable or unwilling to pay? We can expand this question
to all of healthcare. We might even do well to compare a situation in an optometric
practice with that of another medical practice.
Glasses and white teeth
As eyeglasses represent the largest single
category of product that optometrists dispense, let's compare them to teeth whitening,
a popular dental procedure. (Feel free to substitute eyeglasses with another product
or service offered by your practice.)
Professional teeth whitening can cost between
$300 and $800, which falls in line with premium eyeglasses that include lightweight,
anti-reflective progressive lenses.
Both premium glasses and whitening
elicit the "wow" factor and referrals from patients. Family and friends who buy
premium glasses can't wait to tell me about the experience ("Look, these turn into
sunglasses when I go outside!"). If you know of someone who recently bought glasses
and had their teeth whitened, be prepared to add 30 minutes to your next
conversation and rest assured that they'll do most of the talking.
There are differences. Dental
care plans do not cover whitening. However, most vision plans offer a set dollar
amount for premium eye wear.
Also, teeth whitening offers no direct
health benefit. Patients may even experience pain a day or two after the procedure.
In addition to correcting refractive error, premium eyeglasses provide obvious benefits
for healthy vision as they reduce glare, protect eyes from UV radiation and eliminate
the need for readers.
From a clinical perspective, premium eyeglasses
offer more benefits than whiter teeth. But many dental practices don't market white
teeth they market a lifestyle. According to a study by the Academy of Cosmetic
Surgery, an attractive smile is a social asset and an unattractive one may hinder
career success. Regardless of income, patients will invest hundreds of dollars because
of the value they see in whiter teeth.
Optometric practices don't always capitalize
on the power and value of their products and services even when there's a
clear benefit. For example, rather than presenting healthier vision or safer driving
at night, a practice might present "eyeglasses with add ons." You have to ask: Are
these practices looking out for their patients, or are they making recommendations
that have no teeth?
Optometric Management, Issue: August 2006