Article

SUPPORT THE CONTACT LENS BUSINESS

Q: How can I counter “disruptors,” make dispensing profitable, and why is it important to present new technology to patients?

A: Here, I provide the answers to all three questions:

DISRUPTORS

There are disruptors in every industry. Take, for example, the abundance of online and television advertisements for teeth-straightening trays. They could be considered disruptors to private orthodontists. However, I would not personally trust any of the online technology compared to my dental professional’s recommendation. The reason for that is twofold: (1) I value that relationship and her opinion. (2) I believe the technology involved with making proper impressions and prescribing a series of straightening trays will be more efficient and, thus, achieve a better result, than what I can order online.

So, you see, it really comes down to value. Optometrists can counter contact lens disruptors by offering high-value contact lens care! To add value to contact lens exams, O.D.s should consider taking these simple two steps:

1. Ask the right questions. Optometrists can add value by communicating their expertise and understanding of the patient’s needs via asking questions, such as:

A. “At what time do you take out your contact lenses?” (Follow up with “why” if the answer is earlier than you expect.)

B. “At what time do your contact lenses start feeling dry?”

C. “At what time do you start to experience blurry or fluctuating vision?”

D. “Are you using any coping strategies, such as artificial tears, blinking or rubbing your eyes, to help get you through the contact lens-wearing day?”

Asking questions prompts the sharing of insights into the contact lens-wearing experience from the patient. The patient, in turn, will value that the optometrist took the time to get to know her needs.

2. Offer the upgrade. Providing patients with all the options available to them adds value. If an O.D. follows the, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, she should consider re-evaluating that approach because patients want to hear from their eye care professional about products that may help their eyesight and comfort. As a result, optometrists should let patients know of a potential innovation in their specific visual category (spherical, astigmatism, presbyopic, keratoconus, etc.). Additionally, O.D.s should consider utilizing a common, related script with doctors and staff. Something like:

“I know your contact lenses have been working for you, but I wanted you to know there are many new lens innovations for you to consider for your specific vision and comfort. There are contact lenses that have improved optics and enhanced moisture agents that may maximize your comfortable wearing hours. Have you considered trying something new?” (Also, see bit.ly/PreventCLDropout .)

Personalize the Annual Contact Lens Agreement, above, with your practice name and pricing structure, perhaps a mailing label or other adherence of your office’s contact information to make it your own. This relates to Dr. Jason Miller’s answer to the second question “How can I make dispensing contact lenses profitable for my practice?”

PROFITABILITY

“Profit” is not a bad word. It is important in any business. Without profit, optometrists cannot hire new staff, update their practices, invest in new equipment; basically all those things that add up to a better ability to serve patients. I, obviously, cannot tell each and every O.D. how to set their prices for contact lenses, but I do believe in a separate charge for the contact lens service from the spectacle and eye health examinations. To accomplish this:

Set prices for practice profitability. Optometrists should set their prices for contact lens products so that they are profitable for their practices. If a lens is not profitable or someone else has a competitive advantage with that lens, O.D.s should consider prescribing a different product.

We are fortunate to practice during an era in which there are many great contact lens options and companies to work with. Just like the difficult decisions we make with our frame vendors, it is important to understand the changing landscape of the contact lens industry and work with vendors who want to work with us.

Utilize an annual contact lens agreement. This agreement introduces fees for our contact lens services. (See example on p.17.) The optometrist’s contact lens services need to be relevant to the time and expertise involved in the type of contact lens service provided (spherical, astigmatism, multifocal, keratoconus, etc). Fees can be a hurdle to purchase for some patients, and some patients are even surprised there is an extra cost for this procedure. When addressing patients, O.D.s should communicate to patients that contact lenses require extra time and expertise and that with that comes a service fee for that procedure.

Talking to patients about spending money is never fun, but it is an important and often-forgotten step in the contact lens prescription process. A helpful tip: Optometrists should consider using their technicians to discuss fees ahead of time. Technicians can help discuss the fitting process, expected follow-up visits and appropriate fees, depending on the patient’s prescription needs. Additionally, technicians can handle many inquiries and divert any uncomfortable situations by acting as a kind of buffer between the doctor and the patient. (Also, see: bit.ly/UtilizeTechs )

NEW TECHNOLOGY

I don’t think presenting new contact lens technology is just important, I think it is critical! My reason goes back to my answer to the first question, which is adding value.

Many patients may not feel they have any “major issues” and just want to renew their contact lenses or to be provided with something more comfortable. However, patients may be experiencing discomfort or other symptoms related to an ocular condition, such as dry eye disease, and not be aware of it or the fact that products are available to help. Without a conversation about new contact lens technology, the patient can be ill informed of her options, at best, or get her information from another party, at worst. As a result, it is important for O.D.s to discuss with all contact lens-wearing patients their situation and how their environment and condition affects good quality vision and comfortable contact lens wear. There are many novel approaches contact lens manufacturers are using to improve success with contact lens wear, optometrists should take advantage of them. (Also, see: bit.ly/DefyDrySeason .)

Thanks for sending in your questions. All the best to continued success in your contact lens business. OM