Diagnostic Instrumentation

How to Save $1,500 + Significant Time on Your Next Ophthalmic Instrument Table

The instrument table Dr. Chou found at Costco after repeated calls to a well-known ophthalmic instrument distributor failed to elicit a response. It turned out for the best as he is happy with the table–and with the price he paid for it.

By Brian Chou, OD, FAAO

Jan. 4, 2023

My practice’s adjustable ophthalmic instrument table recently broke. It stopped adjusting, remaining at an impractically low and fixed height. After a frustrating experience seeking a replacement, here is what I learned. My experience can save you almost $1,500 and can quickly get your clinic operations back to normal.

Unresponsive Traditional Instrument Distributor
After my three-instrument table broke, I was ready to purchase a replacement. I called a well-known ophthalmic instrument distributor, which is now a division of a much larger instrumentation company, leaving a phone message indicating intent to purchase their private-labeled ophthalmic instrument table for its retail price of $1,795. To date, I have yet to get a return call, even after calling them a second time. I also requested a quote through one of their affiliate companies, and still received no response.

Embracing Costco
I ordered the Tresanti 47” Adjustable Height Desk through Costco, which is intended for the general public rather than healthcare practices. The cost was $329.99, excluding tax, with free next-day shipping. Indeed, the table was delivered the next day and my staff found it easy to assemble themselves. This table comfortably accommodates my three ophthalmic instruments. The table is rated by the manufacturer to support up to 100 pounds. The table has a clean and modern look, and functions well for its new purpose.

I cannot comment yet on the new table’s longevity. However, so far it functions as well, if not better, than the previous ophthalmic instrument table. The only downside I can identify is that there are no holes going through the table to run instrument cables out of the way. The desktop material is glass, so I do not believe it is possible to create holes. Therefore, it is a little cosmetically unpleasing due to the cables that extend out it. However, I was able to mitigate this by adding a cord management tube to run underneath the tabletop along with binding cords together with zip ties.

Another potential disadvantage of the Costco desk is that it may not formally meet Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and qualify for ADA tax credits. Even so, the dramatic cost savings make up for loss of any tax credit.

Consolidation is Worsening Service
I remember back in 2018, there were several independent ophthalmic instrument distributors on the West Coast. That is no longer the case, with one major distributor having acquired most of these formerly independent instrument companies, fueled by private equity. My experience supports the narrative that the lack of competition in the ophthalmic instrument space has led to abysmal service, both for new instrument sales and with repair service.

In 2018, before I opened ReVision Optometry, I was ready to purchase $160,000 in new instruments. My initial phone call was also completely ignored. I instead placed the order through a smaller company, which at the time, was independent, and highly responsive. Today, under the umbrella of the much larger consolidator, my recent attempts to contact sales representatives were ignored.

Private practice optometrists with a tradition of retail sales often dislike Costco because of its patient prescriptions for eyeglasses, and contact lens prescriptions often getting filled there, eroding their practice profitability.

However, buying Costco’s adjustable height desk in lieu of a traditional ophthalmic instrument table through a major instrumentation distributor can save your practice both money and time. I wanted to purchase a new instrument table from that instrumentation distributor, but their lack of responsiveness and service led me to take my business elsewhere.

If you are met with unresponsive service in your quest to buy instrumentation for your practice, shop around among unconventional sources. You may be surprised at the better deal you find.

Brian Chou, OD, FAAO, owns ReVision Optometry in San Diego, Calif., a referral-based keratoconus and scleral lens clinic.


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