And Five Questions To Put The Strategies Into Play With Your Next Patient

By Kimberly K. Friedman, OD, FAAO

Reduced insurance reimbursements, increased regulatory requirements, eyeglasses sold online and low margins on contact lens boxes: these factors are enough to get any independent eye care professional (IECP) frustrated at times. I’ve even heard experienced IECPs lamenting about “the good ole days” of contact lenses, before the 1-800s and other online competitors cut into their margins. Yet contact lenses can remain an incredibly important and lucrative part of your practice. Here are four ways to make sure that your contact lens business keeps your patients connected to the practice and contributes significantly to the bottom line.

  1. Charge appropriately. Your expertise is required every single year, not just for an initial fit. Some IECPs seem to think that a first-time evaluation is more valuable or warrants a higher fee than subsequent fittings. That doesn’t make sense. A primary care physician charges patients every time they walk in the office for an evaluation, even if the prescriptions don’t change. Similarly, our time with patients is equally valuable regardless of whether it is a “new fit” or an “existing contact lens patient evaluation.” We should be compensated in a manner that is consistent with that. In fact, I could argue that re-evaluations of existing contact lens patients should cost a patient more than a new fit because we have to look for potential contact lens complications that aren’t present in a new wearer.

  2. Explain this idea to patients. If patients think you’re checking to see if the prescription simply needs to be renewed, then they won’t see the value of the contact lens fitting fee. However, an IECP and staff who explain the testing, the results, what these show and how newer contact lens technologies might be helpful will help patients understand the additional steps that go into a contact lens fitting.

  3. Get out of the either/or mindset. Patients are not either eyeglasses or contact lens wearers. Many will want and need eyeglasses, contact lenses and sunglasses. Never ever imply that eyeglasses are the “backup” option to contact lenses, and consider offering a contact lens and plano sunglasses package.

  4. Last year’s “no” might be this year’s “yes.” Continually recruit new contact lens patients from within your current patient database. To offset the percentage of contact lens dropouts and patients who leave a practice for other reasons, develop a continual influx of new wearers. There is a lot of untapped potential of new wearers in all of our practices, especially as the offerings of contact lenses now available on the market increase our ability to fit more patients. Here are the top five questions I ask to uncover hidden contact lens potential in my practice. I may not ask each of them in every exam, but I try to incorporate at least one of these questions in every encounter.

    • Are there any events or activities you do that you wish you could do without eyeglasses?

    • Do you have any special events coming up where you would rather be wearing contact lenses than eyeglasses?

    • Have you ever been told you can’t wear contact lenses? Would you be interested in discussing the new technologies that make that old belief no longer accurate?

    • Your refractive error can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or LASIK. Which of these options would you like to learn more about?

    • With current contact lens wearers, I ask: If I could magically make anything better about your current contact lenses, what would you want me to improve?
      This is a great conversation-starter that can help patients upgrade from a current monthly or two-week replacement lens to a daily disposable lens, for example.

If you are reading this in your office between patient encounters, I challenge you to use some of these strategies with your very next patient. If your patient care day is done, try it tomorrow. With the next patient you see, pick one question and incorporate it into that encounter. Change starts with the smallest first step.

Have a Question? Dr. Kimberly Friedman would love to hear from you with questions on this topic or other ways to bring simple strategies for success into your practice. Email [email protected]. Dr. Friedman is a partner in a private practice in Moorestown, New Jersey. She also serves on the HEA National Advisory Board.