Practice Management

Practice Investments that Saved Us 25% on Spectacle Lens Costs & Increased CL Sales 35%

The optical in Dr. Crooker’s practice. She says that a few key investments have changed how she serves patients and grows profitability.

By Jessica Crooker, OD

May 18, 2022

Technologies that provide patients with better care and greater concierge-level convenience have been my most profitable investments over the last few years. Here are the details on these investments, including how both my patients and practice are benefiting.

Providing Higher Level of Care that Is Spurring Practice Growth & Profitability
A key device that I invested in right before the pandemic is Optomap. This instrument gives my team and I another touch point to engage and better connect with patients about their eyecare needs. It also improves the overall patient experience. I like using the Optomap to educate patients on retinal disease and other conditions I look for during exams. Patients appreciate that they now have this view of the back of their eye.

Editor’s Note: There are other wide-field imaging technologies to choose from. Other options include the EIDON Ultra-Widefield Module from iCare and the THUNDER Imager from Leica Microsystems, among others.

We bought the Optomap just before COVID, and made it optional for patients to use. Since we returned from COVID, and made it our recommendation for all patients to have Optomap photos taken, our capture rate for photos increased by 55 percent, illustrating the demand for this type of technology in my practice.

My practice’s greatest need right now is keeping up with patient flow. We currently have four exam lanes, but we’ve already outgrown the space and could use more – I could probably use another two doctors to accommodate the patient flow! Patients are booking their appointments months in advance because people are more aware of the importance of vision care – they’re not just coming in for glasses; they’re coming in because they understand how eye exams and eye health are an integral part of their overall health.

Enhancing Efficiency & Cost-Effectiveness in the Optical
We added a Santinelli edger to our optical department late last year, which cost almost $40,000. It saved me 25 percent on my lens costs in the optical department over just a few months, and I expect these savings to only continue to grow. At a time when supply chain issues are a problem in all aspects of our field, it is nice to have the edger available to quickly make lenses for patients in-house. It has helped our patients who have broken their glasses and need a new pair quickly to be able to see – patients love the ease and quick-turnaround solution we can provide them!

Having an in-house edger allows us to both save money and produce completed eyewear for our patients faster.

Editor’s Note: There are many lens edgers to choose from. Other options include those from Luneau Technology, Essilor and Coburn Technologies, among others.

Since I took over the practice in 2017, we have grown the number of doctors by 50 percent, including myself (from two to four doctors) and we expanded our office hours to accommodate an influx in patients. Our office hours used to be Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. and now  our office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m., as well as Saturdays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. We used to see around 20 patients during office hours. Now we’re seeing closer to 30+ patients, plus emergencies.

With such an increase in patient volume, technology that allows us to be more efficient and cost-effective in the optical is invaluable.

24/7 Access to My Practice & Products
The most effective investments that deliver ROI, especially since COVID, are the investments that provide patients with 24/7 access to your practice, giving them the convenience and constant connection they expect. When it comes to constant communication, patients want options that allow them to order contact lenses, glasses, and any other products they need, whenever it’s most convenient for them.

Offerings like MARLO, Alcon’s contact lens ordering platform, allow patients to experience the convenience of order reminders and notifications, while also having 24/7 access to contact lens ordering with the click of a button. This platform gives patients control over their eyecare experience and contact lens purchasing choices that they desire. It also allows my practice to maintain a key revenue source by keeping contact lens purchasing “in-house” even when patients are shopping online. As of April, contact lens sales are up about 35 percent now with MARLO, compared to last year.

Editor’s Note: MARLO is a digital platform that allows patients to order Alcon contact lenses from their doctors. Platforms by other contact lens manufacturers and distributors are also available, including Abby from ABB Optical Group, LensFerry from CooperVision and CLX, among other options.

This technology also is helpful because it acts like an extension of our team. We can automate processes for contact lens ordering to save valuable time, which enables my staff to focus on patient relationships rather than patient transactions. My patients love and have come to expect concierge-like services like this. There have been many positive word-of-mouth conversations and referrals around my practice because of this platform. I’ve had patients come into my practice and ask for “the program that ships contact lenses straight to my home,” which has had a direct, positive impact on my practice’s bottom line.

Next Investments: Dry Eye Diagnosis & Treatment Technology
We already treat many dry eye patients, so launching greater dry eye diagnosis and treatment services is a natural next step to grow the practice and better meet the needs of existing patients.

Within 1-3 years, I plan to build out the practice’s dry eye specialty area by investing in new instrumentation with the hopes of eventually becoming known as a dry eye center of experts in the South Shore area of Scituate, Mass., where we are based. We haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to dry eye offerings, so I’m really looking forward to investing more time and resources toward that.

Jessica Crooker, OD, is the owner of Scituate Harbor Vision Source in Massachusetts. To contact her:

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