Article

BUSINESS: STRATEGIES

Eyeglasses Still Matter

Optometrists can’t afford to ignore the optical

As a company often charged with increasing a doctor’s practice profitability, we often get frustrated when we hear doctors proudly say things like, “I do so much medical optometry, that I don’t worry about the optical.” Or some say, “Why even bother with glasses? Patients will just showroom us and go buy them online anyway. Why waste our time?” Others still offer the very common badge of honor comment, “I have no idea how many frames we have, how many we sold, what we charge or how many premium lenses we use or what we charge for them . . . nor do I care.”

THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP

One of the sources of our frustration is that the numbers just don’t add up. Those doctors who “do a lot of medical” have likely not looked at a recent profit and loss statement and seen what we have seen (literally thousands of times), that optical sales make up at least 50% of revenues even in these “I do a lot of medical” practices. If these doctors saw this, they’d likely place more attention on that side of their practices. While there are only 100 percentage points to be divided in a practice, and we believe doctors who do what they enjoy ultimately have more successful practices, adding even the smallest amount of attention to eyeglass sales that already comprise half of a practice’s income is likely to pay significant dividends.

THE BOTHERSOME BANTER

The next problem to be addressed is to change some of the typical optometric banter that is kicked around. A practice that “does a lot of medical” that also does a lot of “optical,” (whether the doctor knows it or not), would be better served, as would its patients, to think in terms of, “I do a lot of optometry.”

Glasses should not be a source of embarrassment, and being able to expertly provide them and change your patients’ lives by doing so, should replace the current hands-off badge of honor I have found that so many doctors wear. Just like your “eyeglass patients” need their IOP checked and their tear films evaluated, your dry eye and glaucoma patients need glasses. Indeed, nearly all your “medical” patients likely need glasses!

Merge these two practice areas into one cohesive message for all your patients.

THE OPTICAL APATHY EFFECT

Does the above optical apathy matter to our industry?

Yes, and it’s having a profound effect on the future of our profession. Quite simply, as optometry has taken its eyes off the optical ball, others have seen it as an amazing business opportunity.

For the last 10 years, short of complaining about online optical sellers, few O.D.s have done much about it, which has allowed more internet players to join the fray. While we complain that patients just want cheap glasses and “What the plan covers,” we fail to recognize that many retailers are doing just fine selling high-end glasses with no insurance coverage and, worse, we fail to learn from them and do something about it.

The retail side of optometry (in its many iterations) is still growing. Why is that? The reason is the optical market in the U.S. is amazingly under-indexed. There is so much room for growth in the optical category, and it seems like nearly everyone except optometrists are realizing and capitalizing on that fact!

The hashtag #glassesmatter means that you have an obligation as your patient’s eye doctor to expertly address their entire eye care needs. Selling an awesome looking and amazingly performing pair of glasses isn’t beneath you. It’s your job, and your patients are relying on you to do it! OM