There are several valuable metrics that can help you manage your practice. In this issue, I’ll focus on how to measure Rx capture rates for eyeglasses and contact lenses. These are very important statistics that can reveal much about your practice and guide you to increased revenues. You should have an automatic system to collect and calculate this data every month.
As you make changes to various aspects of your practice, you can monitor the effect (if any) on Rx retention. Some examples of management changes that might alter your capture rate are: fees, staffing, customer service, warranty coverage, and insurance plan participation.
The problems with capture rate
Measuring the percentage of patients who buy glasses or contacts from your office is not as easy as it sounds. Here are the factors that make it challenging.
It’s easy to track how many pairs of glasses were sold each month but we want to compare that to the number of actual eyeglass Rxs written, which is not as easy. Most offices do not have that data. Most offices have the number of refractions, but many refractions result in no change in Rx, so you can’t count those because glasses would typically not be sold.
Some patients buy multiple pairs of glasses at once, so the number of glasses sold does not relate perfectly to the number of patients.
Some patients buy glasses from your office, but they want a copy of the spectacle Rx for emergencies or for their records.
Some patients don’t want you to know that they are going to buy glasses elsewhere because they are embarrassed about it, so they may say they are going to return, but never do. The optical store or internet vendor they buy from may call your office for the Rx.
Measuring eyeglass capture rates
There are many ways to measure the Rx capture rate and I’ve tried most of them, but here is the method I use now. It’s not perfect but it is quite good and simple. Of course, any method you use will work fine as long as you don’t change the methods and only use the data within your practice. If we try to establish and compare with other ODs or national norms, we must measure the data exactly the same way.
To monitor eyewear capture rate, a simple method is to get a monthly count of the number of patients who request their eyeglass Rx to take to another provider or who have a changed Rx but don’t purchase eyeglasses. We will call them walkouts and my staff records them in a notebook. The walkout rate is simply the inverse of the retention rate or capture rate, but it’s easier to count those who take their Rx out than those who fill it at your office.
Add your monthly walkout number to the total number of eyeglasses dispensed to arrive at your total eyeglass prescriptions for the month. Most offices use their management software report for this data. At the end of each month, divide the number of walkouts by the total eyeglass prescriptions for the walkout rate. Track this every month and keep a record or graph and you will see the normal random variability from month to month. A walkout rate of 15% is a capture rate of 85%.
Once you have a good feel for the normal range in your office, try to implement new techniques to see if you can have a big impact on the retention rate. Does an incentive program for staff change it? Does raising your prices change it? Does it change if you have dispensing scribes in the exam room with you? What if you remodel the optical and install new displays?
Contact lens capture rate
You can use a similar method for contact lens prescriptions. Keep a monthly tally of the number of patients receiving a contact lens exam (or evaluation) who do not purchase any contact lenses on exam day. Your software system may not record this so you may have your staff do it manually. At the end of each month divide the number of contact lens walkouts by the number of contact lens evaluations performed. This works because we expect every contact lens evaluation to result in the purchase of more contacts.
What is normal?
Rx capture rates vary among practices for many reasons, but according to data from the Management and Business Academy, the average retention rate for eyeglasses prescriptions is about 70% and the norm for contact lens prescriptions is about 80%. I believe the eyeglass retention rate should be higher than that, so I recommend using 80% as the minimum goal for both categories. A 90% retention rate is excellent.