Practice Management

How I Am Powering Medical Eyecare Service Growth & Pandemic Survival

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By Matthew Ward, OD

June 30, 2021

This is the first article of the six-part series, “Insights to Impact.” Articles in this series will detail the insights that 2020 taught optometry and how those insights translate to actions that are having a positive impact on the profession.

The Coronavirus pandemic tested all of our practices financially. The practices that withstood this crisis best were those with services that put them in a strong position to sustain profitability. I have learned that growing medical eyecare services is a key way to create a practice with a strong enough financial footing to withstand any crisis, including a worldwide pandemic.

Medical eyecare services offer tremendous potential to benefit both your patients and your profitability. These services are a buffer against increased competition from online retailers and large optical chains–and crises like the pandemic. With a year like the one we just had, profitable medical eyecare services, which deliver essential services, such as emergency eyecare, to patients, can make the difference between staying afloat and just scraping by.

With many medical eyecare services not covered by patient insurance, the practice also is insulated from the low reimbursements of vision plans.

Here is the resource–CareCredit–helping many of my patients get the medical eyecare I prescribe while helping me to build my practice, and weather any challenge we confront, whether that is increased competition or Coronavirus.

Creating a Practice that Can Withstand Marketplace Challenges
Doctors are looking at how they can continue to bring money into their practice. Do they see more patients? Offer shorter exams? I worked with pessimistic optometrists who told me optometry will no longer be viable in 5-10 years. Our positions will be taken over by robots that do refractions automatically online, making the profession obsolete. Fortunately, that has yet to happen, though there are increasing pressures from online refraction and retail.

I have found medical eyecare to be the answer to the pressures worrying so many of my colleagues. From emergency visits, to foreign body removal, to specialty services, this is where optometry can be the greatest game-changer in the lives of patients–and be profitable while doing it. That many advanced medical eyecare services are patient-pay, with no insurance coverage, makes it all the more beneficial for a practice to offer these procedures. Patient financing, with the CareCredit credit card, makes medical eyecare more of a win-win for patients and practice, enabling patients to access the treatments I have prescribed.

5 Insights from 2020

Expand Access to Care. In a crisis like the pandemic, patients need access to products and services, like emergency eyecare and treatment for the dry eye that may have worsened from long hours working on electronic devices. Patient financing can make that access easier.

Make Transformative Investments. A practice primed for long-term profitability is one that has invested in technologies to provide much-needed care. Adding advanced care to your practice becomes a win-win for patients and practice when you offer financing that helps patients benefit from treatments using that technology.

Provide Care for the Whole Family. The long hours on digital devices especially impacted children, whose schools were closed for at least a few months, with classes delivered via distance learning. Concerns about the impact on children’s eyes, including the impact on myopia, became common. A financing option gives families a way to more easily provide myopia management, a service children will benefit from for the rest of their lives.

Ease Patient Stress During a Difficult Time. When patients are enduring a crisis like the pandemic, they don’t want to have financial pressures layered on top of all the other difficulties they are facing. Patient financing can help relieve financial stress as they follow through on your treatment plans.

Differentiate Your Practice. When you offer services, like advanced medical eyecare, patients will seek you out over competitors, even during an ongoing crisis. They may travel more than an hour to come to the practice offering treatment they can’t find at any other local practice. So much the better when that treatment becomes within their reach thanks to the ability to pay for it with patient financing.

Growing Opportunity for Enhanced Care
Treating dry eye, and ocular surface disease in general, is one of my professional passions. In January 2019, I added the Optima IPL (Lumenis) to my practice. This technology, which can provide transformative dry eye relief while also offering aesthetic optometry benefits, generates $60,000+ annually.

Neurolens, which improves the lives of patients with eye misalignment, eye strain and headaches, is another technology that is revolutionizing our care. Myopia management using the new MiSight 1 day lens as part of the CooperVision Brilliant Futures program is also changing our patients’ lives. Both neurolens and myopia management are cash-pay programs in our office.

The growth of our medical eyecare services has been substantial. In 2020, we billed around $100,000 just in exams (level 3, level 4, post-op cataract, post-yag, post-LASIK, etc.) Add in the revenues generated from IPL treatments, and 2020 was a good year for us, despite a pandemic that required us to stop providing routine eyecare for a couple of months.

Taking Pressure Off of Patients By Providing an Easy Way to Pay for Essential Care
CareCredit gives patients a feeling of relief when my staff and I explain how, if approved for a CareCredit card, they can use it to finance payment of the out-of-pocket services I have prescribed. Patients are especially impressed when we explain how they may be able to use their CareCredit card at locations in the CareCredit network to pay for other healthcare, including for their pet! They may use it to pay for an IPL treatment in my office, but then may also be able to use it at the pharmacy, chiropractor, veterinary clinic or with another healthcare provider.

Establish Practice Differentiators & Let Patients Know You’re There
In addition to delivering much-needed and valued services to patients, advanced medical eyecare allows your practice to set itself apart from other eyecare providers. Specialized care, like the dry eye services, neurolens glasses and myopia management I am providing, are a way to offer something many others ECPs in my community are not yet offering, and may never offer.

Daily I have people driving from 2-3 hours away for our services. More often then not, they simply Googled “dry eye” or “headache glasses,” and our website popped up at the top of the search results. We include information on our homepage and throughout our practice website on our dry eye services, and other medical eyecare, so we are usually easy for people to find when searching online for a provider. We also increase the likelihood of prospective patients finding us by introducing ourselves to other local healthcare practices and other businesses. We let them know we should be the first choice of where to come when in need of medical eyecare.

With CareCredit patient financing, they not only find us and learn about our services. They have a greater opportunity to benefit from those services.

Learn more – listen as Dr. Mark Wright and Dr. Matthew Ward continue the discussion in this podcast.


Matthew Ward, OD, is the owner of Valley Eye Clinic in West Des Moines, Iowa. To contact him:

All product and service names, logos, and brands are property of their respective owners and are used for identification purposes only. Use of these names, logos, and brands does not imply endorsement.

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors and/or medical providers with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of the author. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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