By Rachael Click, OD
Feb. 8, 2017
Prescribing annual supplies of contact lenses is a benefit to patients. We find that patients who are fully stocked with contacts until their next annual exam are less likely to extend wear past when they should change their lenses.
Also, manufacturers sometimes offer rebates for purchases of annual supplies, they also can sometimes realize cost savings.
Selling annual supplies of contact lenses also happens to be good for a practice financially. It allows you to capture the patient’s total contact lens sales for the year, and encourages the patient to return to your office when their supply runs out for their next annual exam.
Selling annual supplies is a great practice-building strategy, as it not only fills the books for future revenue, but an annual supply sale increases receipts immediately. These two things together make patients much more compliant, which increases exam revenue.
In addition, it is much more efficient to sell an annual supply because the staff only has to service the contact lens order one time a year for that patient instead of every time the patient buys individual boxes. Vendors often give a discount to the practice when a patient buys an annual supply, too.
Thirty-five percent of our total exams are of contact lens wearers, and 42 percent of them buy an annual supply. We strive to sell 60 percent annual supplies, so we have a lot of work to do to make up that 10-15 percent gain. We talk extensively in staff meetings meetings about how important it is for patients to buy an annual supply to increase patient compliance and to increase our productivity.
Promote Annual Supplies in Exam Room
My associate and I begin the process of promoting annual supplies in the exam room. When the contact lens prescription is finalized the doctor’s script is: “I have you finalized and approved for your annual supply. That will make you eligible for discounts, rebates and free shipping. Let’s go talk to (staff name) to get your contacts ordered, and I will see you next year unless you need me before then.”
If the visit is a contact lens follow-up, then the exam for next year is already scheduled, and I will state the date to the patient. If the patient is wearing a daily disposable lens, then I explain at the initial fitting that a daily disposable contact lens annual supply amortizes out to be about the same price as a monthly lens when you account for all the additional contact lens supplies needed.
Hand-Off to Staff to Educate on Annual Supply
Once the contact lens prescription is finalized, I restate in the baton pass that the patient is approved for their annual supply, and ask the staff member to please help them get their contacts ordered and review rebates and shipping details.
The staff is trained to know the retail value of our most popular annual supply, so they can then let patients know what the price of an annual supply of their contacts will come to after insurance, my practice’s own discount for annual supplies and the manufacturer rebates have been applied. The staff automatically assumes the patient is going to buy an annual supply, and proceeds with that presumption unless the patient states otherwise. They proceed with placing the order, state the price and ask what form of payment they patient would like to use, and end with an expected arrival date of the contacts.
We do most of our staff training during our weekly staff meeting as needed, so the entire team can hear. The team conversations have been great because staff are able to learn from their co-workers the most successful ways of selling annual supplies.
When team members who sell contacts are in their training period we go over selling strategies, scripts and role playing.
Support staff know the overall big picture: there are internal discounts, rebates and free shipping on annual supplies, so that they can start answering questions if needed. We try to defer the financial details to optical employees due to insurance details that our opticians are the most familiar with.
Emphasize Both Health & Financial Benefits
My staff and I explain the benefits to eye health and comfort of always having fresh contact lenses to change into, so the patient never has to worry about running out before their next appointment, and being forced to over-wear their contacts. But we also emphasize the financial benefits of purchasing an annual supply.
We stress that we offer an internal discount and the manufactures rebate. We also state there is free shipping and that we will supply any additional trials they may need until their appointment if lenses rip or tear throughout the year. If a patient is incredibly price conscious, our staff will let them know the effective price per box once everything is accounted for, and show how it is often less expensive than online prices. Sometimes we will even look up the online price for the patient, so they have the information to make an informed decision.
Get Tips from Vendors
We have a total of three contact lens reps we work with, and of these three, two provide help educating our staff. Both of these reps come in monthly to speak to the contact lens coordinator. Once a quarter they meet with me to review sales for our Vision Source rebate. They also will schedule staff meetings to educate on new products and strategize on sales strategies. They will then follow-up with the coordinator to see how the strategies are working, and what additional help we need.
Set Goals for Future
With greater choice of contact lenses for a greater range of patients now available, we are trying this year to even sell annual supplies to specialty contact lens patients.
We are going to work on increasing our specialty daily disposable fits. It has been an area that we have struggled with because of price and limited options. But, recently some very good daily disposable multi-focal contacts have entered the market that warrant further training and annual sales strategies with our vendors.