Is It Time to Add In-office Finishing to Your Practice?
March 8, 2017
I realize that most optometrists in private practice have a long list of items they would like to buy. Investing in your practice is a very smart business strategy that produces a great return, but you can only handle so much spending at one time and you must prioritize. In this article, I’ll make the case for you to purchase or lease an edging system.
I’m often asked to provide a specific metric on when it makes economic sense for an OD to install in-office finishing. My answer is that it makes sense for any optometric practice of average size or greater. There is not a precise metric, but for most practices, an edging system will pay for itself fairly quickly.
Ways to make money
There are three main ways to save money by doing in-house lab work:
Use stock lenses instead of surfaced. There is a huge difference in cost between stock uncut lenses and custom-made lenses, but for common prescriptions, the quality is the same. Your wholesale optical lab could use stock uncuts in suppling a complete job for you, but many will surface the lenses specifically for any given job and charge you more. When you edge the lenses yourself, you decide and you know for sure when stock uncuts are used. Stock uncuts are only available in single vision (and some spherical multifocals), but you can easily save $20 or more per pair when you use a stock lens instead of a surfaced lens.
Save the cost of edging on private jobs. Wholesale labs generally charge about $8 to $12 to edge a pair of lenses for you. If you did that task on your optical orders that are not sent to a vision plan laboratory, you would save that amount on each one.
Get paid by vision plans to do the edging. VSP and EyeMed both have a program that pays optometric practices to do the edging on single vision jobs. The payment varies depending on the type of lens material, but it can range from $7 to $30 per pair of lenses.
When you add up all three of these methods, you get an idea of how profitable it can be to have your own in-office edging equipment.
Gain more control of your product
In addition to the direct cost savings an edger brings you, there are some very important service advantages as well.
Many of your eyeglass orders can be made completely in-house. You take the frame off your display and you pull a pair of lenses in the correct Rx and they are done. When you don’t have to rely on others and you don’t have a shipping factor, the chances of error are greatly reduced.
Fast delivery. If you have the lenses in stock on your shelf, the entire job will take your staff about 20 minutes. Patients love it when you are fast.
You can stock lenses in CR-39 or poly, with and without a premium antireflective coating already applied. A rough power range would be a pair of lenses from +2 to -4 and up to 2 cylinder. You don’t have to carry a large inventory of lenses and you can build it gradually. You can order stock uncuts a pair at time if you don’t mind waiting a day or two. But these lenses are not very expensive and it makes sense to have some stock on hand.
The quality of the work when you edge a pair of stock uncuts is extremely high.
Having an edger gives you more ways to “save the day”. When a patient is in extreme need due to lost eyewear or when a custom Rx job has to be rejected, your office can make a pair of temporary glasses very quickly to help get the patient through a tough spot. That type of service builds your practice reputation very fast.
Some ODs tell me they don’t want to hire more staff to do edging. To each his own, but I disagree with that. In the early going, your current staff can be easily trained to edge lenses in addition to their other duties. It is incredibly easy with the technology available today and most staff have some down time at various times of the day. If your staff does not have much downtime, then this may be a good time to bring on a new employee who can do some edging and also help in other areas of the practice.
It is true that edging systems are a bit expensive, but this is a device that will pay for itself as you use it. Just do some projections on how much you can save per month based on the dollar amounts given above. If you can save more than your monthly lease payment on the machine, you should do it.
Go to Vision Expo East or the AOA annual meeting for a good overview of edgers and other lab equipment or just call one the edging companies for an in-office demo.