Vision care & wear
Bank vs. Stock: The Contact Lens Question
Determine which method of delivery is best for your practice.
JENNIFER L. STEWART, O.D., NORWALK, CONN.
In our “need to have it” world, we, as optometrists, often wonder which is more profitable and best for our practices: having a lens bank for direct shipment to our patients or stocking our most commonly used contact lenses.
Many factors surrounding these choices influence this decision. So, consider their impact on your bottom line and practice flow to make the correct choice for your practice.
Consider these six factors:
1. The elimination of extra needed space. Direct ship to patients through a lens bank cancels the requirement for additional space to house these lenses, increasing the profit per square foot for a practice. Many offices simply do not have the space to stock the amount of lenses needed to satisfy all of our patients' needs. For practitioners who prescribe daily disposable lenses, the area needed to stock according to which powers of each lens are selling can be significant.
2. A decrease in financial investment. A lens bank allows a new practice, small practice or one that does not want to tie up cash in contact lenses the opportunity to pay for contact lenses as needed. The upfront cost of placing a stock inventory order for contact lenses depends on several factors, such as the space available and lenses ordered, and may be difficult for a practice that does not have enough cash flow (single-use contact lenses cost more than monthly contact lenses).
3. Staff time reduction. For a bank, staff time is required to place the order, check in the smaller number of boxes arriving in office and dispense those lenses to patients (or simply order lenses, in the case of direct ship). Conversely, when stocking lenses, staff is needed to place orders, check in orders upon arrival, put the lenses away and monitor inventory. The cost of staff time to maintain an inventory of lenses adds up through the year.
4. Practice promotion. People notice when someone receives a package at work. We offer to ship lenses to patients' workplaces for their convenience, but the shipment also acts as an advertisement for our practice. Patients talk about the great practice that ships their contact lenses to their office, instead of the lenses sitting outside their house.
5. Theft prevention. Having no inventory of lenses means less chance of employee theft.
6. Avoid being overwhelmed. Do you know what powers of what lenses you sell the most? How long does it take to turn over supplies of certain lenses? It can often take a lot of analytics to determine how many boxes of what prescriptions you sell, and sometimes trial and error to determine how many of each power you need. There is a fine balance between having enough lenses in stock to supply patient need and having too many of other prescriptions that sit unsold and take up space.
Consider these seven factors:
1. Bulk discounts. There is often special bulk pricing for practices that stock lenses, lowering their cost per box significantly.
2. Instant patient gratification. We live in a “have it now” society, and our practices must reflect that to create patient loyalty and referrals. Patients appreciate leaving the office with their entire lens supply and not having to wait for the shipment to arrive. New patients, in particular, are often surprised that you have their lenses waiting for them at checkout, which is a great way to build practice referrals.
A key factor in the bank vs. stock question is whether you have the space to stock the contact lenses to satisfy patient needs.
Patients become accustomed to having their lenses in stock — they consider it a given they will leave your office with a year supply of contact lenses along with a rebate.
3. Competitive edge. Many vendors promise two-day and next-day shipping, but having lenses a patient can leave with eliminates wait time. You don't want to give your patients any reason to visit online vendors to shop.
When patients leave your office with their six-month or one-year supply of lenses, you give them no reason to price shop or compare.
Also, patients often present when they are wearing their last pair of lenses and are leaving for a vacation the next day. A practice that does not stock lenses often gives these patients enough diagnostic lenses to last through the trip, assuming the patient will order their lenses from the practice. These patients may choose to order lenses at this time, but also may order from an online vendor. How often are you pulling lenses from your diagnostic sets to give to patients, and how much revenue is potentially lost by not making the sale at that time? A practice that has the lenses in stock can make an immediate sale.
4. Exam compliance increase. Patients leave your office with the corresponding lens supply needed until their next appointment. This eliminates the temptation for patients to buy a box at a time and stretch them until their appointment. Also, patients who buy a year supply of lenses run out of lenses at the time they are due for an exam, which functions better than any postcard or reminder to schedule the exam and purchase their next year supply.
5. Patient value. By stocking lenses, you can eliminate shipping charges for patients. Also, stocking allows for rebates. This shows patients the value of purchasing lenses through us while saving even more money.
6. Error elimination. Having staff provide patients with their lenses at checkout cancels errors in incorrect shipment of lenses to patients, backorders or tracking issues.
7. Easy exchanges. Most contact lens manufacturers will exchange lenses if you ordered too many of one prescription and need more of another.
Take a hard look at your practice to decide whether banking or stocking lenses is the smartest choice. Also, consider a combination: Stock a full supply of one or two of your top lenses, and dispense lenses to patients from this, while banking other lenses you use a lot and direct shipping the rest. OM
|Dr. Stewart is in private practice at Norwalk Eye Care. E-mail her at JStewartOD@yahoo.com, or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.