By Harsh Parekh
Owner, Lens N Specs
Jan. 12, 2022
We started using Anagram Access two and a half years ago to see vision plan patients on an out-of-network basis. Any office that sees out-of-network patients has to have Anagram in their practice. I can confidently say that after we give discounts, the experience is equivalent to in-network for the patient.
But whether your practice is in-network or out-of-network with a discount, the big-box corporations don’t give eyecare professionals much breathing room.
Big-Box Retailers Are Squeezing Independents
When you have one big-box corporation controlling 60-70 percent of the industry it’s like they’re standing on your neck as an ECP. If I want to get a 20 percent discount on one of their frame lines, for example, I need to purchase over $15,000 worth annually. Without that significant investment, my practice only qualifies for a 10 percent discount through my buying group, which comes with its own costs and expectations.
So, maybe I open another practice to increase my purchasing power? But then I find out they have a rule set up: If you have another practice you have to open another account and meet those same requirements twice. What happens then? Same scenario as the other office. Then if I give the patient a 20 percent discount on those frames, my practice is barely profitable enough to survive, let alone grow.
If I’m trying to make something resembling an industry standard profit margin, it’s virtually impossible without tying up significant resources in the big-box retailer’s products. But it doesn’t end there. These same big-box companies also own vision plans with obscure and confusing rules. At the end of the year they can (and have!) come back to me and said, “Sorry, we’ve overpaid you, you’re going to have to give us that money back.”
Now I’m faced with an unwinnable choice: Do I spend countless hours collecting the documents and making the case that I charged according to the patient benefit summary or do I pay the money back and move on? I’m always at their mercy. I should never have to ask if my time is better spent on paperwork or taking care of my patients.
Better Patient Experiences with Prosper
My practice has been using Anagram Access for several years, so I was interested to try Prosper, Anagram’s new product, which launched in late 2020. Anagram has always been an easy, practical tool, and now that Anagram has Prosper, the change in patient experiences has been amazing.
Right after signing up for Prosper, I had a new patient come to my office for the first time; she got a good product, good prices, good service, and before she even left my shop, a $43 instant rebate courtesy of Nikon and Anagram. This patient is guaranteed to come back to our office. Why do I say that? Because every office can say they provide good products and services at a good price, but how many can say they give their patient an instant gift card that can be spent anywhere?
My patient was so excited at the end of the transaction, she said, “I’ve never received a rebate from any manufacturer before!” In my experience, this is true. Even if you fill out the paperwork, and send everything in by mail, there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever see that rebate, and odds are you’ll forget about it before you get it. Not with Prosper. The rebate comes right away, for the exact amount we discussed.
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Think about this interaction: my patient got a product she liked, I had a profitable transaction and my vendor partners grow with my business. I win, my patient wins, my partners win. Everyone wins except vision plans, and I can live with that.
Nikon lenses were introduced to me before I’d signed up for Prosper. I heard a lot about Nikon offering great products that compare favorably to some Varilux lenses. My interest was piqued when I learned that Nikon progressive lens adaptation is quicker than any other product. Through their agreement with Anagram, Nikon is able to offer great product at an affordable price.
My experience with the team at Nikon has been awesome! It took around 15 minutes to get my account set up. They’re willing to resolve any problem and explain the details of why Nikon progressive lenswear is different. The education has been systematic and to the point. I’ve had less-than-stellar experiences with many other vendors in receiving products, getting them on our frame board and ready to sell.
Nikon, as a consumer brand, has a strong reputation. If somebody likes the product once they try it, then they like it. It’s easy to sell. It’s easier to sell by name than many other brands that are well known by ECPs, but not by most patients. Most customers have heard of Nikon cameras, even if they don’t know what lenses are in their glasses.
I would encourage all my fellow independent ECPs to try something both new and reputed. Nikon is a good product: To date we’ve received excellent quality work, and we’ve received the completed glasses quickly.
Why pay more and jump through hoops for a big-box brand? The patient doesn’t care about those things, especially if you can offer something better. Patients care about good vision, finding glasses that fit perfectly and shopping in an environment they want to spend time in.
If you can communicate with the patient, speak confidently about the product and are a good technician, the patient will be happy with their experience in your optical and with the product they walk out the door with. Plus, they’re going to be delighted with their instant rebate.
Harsh Parekh is the owner of Lens N Specs in Schaumburg, Ill.