By ROB Editors
In your pricing strategy, are contact lenses a lost leader–or a profit center?
How you present your pricing structure for contact lens prescribing–and how your entire staff presents and reinforces a clear messages about it–is a key element in defining your practice as a whole.
If you present your pricing as competitive with the lowest consumer-direct option, what message does this send to your patients? Ask yourself if you want contact lenses to be a loss leader for other services–or a key profit center for your practice.
If, on the other hand, you present and explain the professional care and expertise that goes into prescribing premium contact lenses that provide the best vision correction and healthiest option for you, then you underscore the higher level of care that your pratice privides. You are differentiating your practice from cost-driven providers of eye care and optical goods.
Revisit your Mission Statement
However you set your contact lens pricing and develop protocols for your staff to present pricing and explain it to patients, revist your practie mission statement. Are the two in concert? Or doews your contact lens pricing and presentation send out a message contrary to what you want your practice to be about.
The following are four approaches to setting and presenting pricing for contact lens pricing.
Nhung Brandenburg, OD, FAAO
Marietta Eye Clinic, Marietta, GA (seven locations)
Patient EducationWe position ourselves through patient education. Patients are Internet savvy and come in with coupons and ideas from TV commercials, but when a doctor recommends a certain brand and has the patient’s trust, that’s better than any marketing. Once you understand their lifestyle needs and what affects comfort, like dry-eye syndrome, the patients will go along with my recommendation.
Nothing is routine.I never look at a contact-lens patient as a routine fit. Almost daily, I have patients who are wearing traditional, older contact lens materials, and their eyes are red. They often think this discomfort is normal, when it isn’t. New materials are focused on breathability and keeping corneas healthy. People understand why some lenses don’t work, if you explain it to them.
Price Competitive.We have reduced our prices to be more competitive with local establishments. I like specific brands for specific patients. I am proactive about talking with patients about contacts, but it’s the technicians that do the documentation. As the doctor, I know how severe the patients’ symptoms might be. The fitting technicians don’t have the whole picture.
Yearly supply.We have a separate contact-lens clinic. I walk patients over there and specify recommendations for the fittings, which helps with the continuity. I encourage a year’s supply, which increases compliance. They don’t have to do return multiple times for refills. I talk to them about available rebates and we take full advantage of those offers from manufacturers.
Amir Khoshnevis, OD
Carolina Family Eye Care, Charlotte, NC (two locations)
Present options.The best way to brand yourself as a contact-lens practice is not through advertising, but by focusing on the captive audience you see every day. We often neglect to let patients know what we do. Even if they don’t need it now, they should know what our practice can do for them. Our practice uses everything from signs to well-crafted verbiage to inform the patient of all the options available, the scope of the practice, and our position as a specialty-lens practice.
Recommend what’s best.We start fresh with each new patient. I establish what the patient wants by asking, “In a perfect world, how would you like to wear contact lenses?” Then we offer the best solution to meet their needs and desires. This is where you need a great team approach and the right verbiage. You should always ask yourself, “Have I delivered a solution tha tmeets the patient’s lifestyle needs? Or, am I simply prescribing what I think is best for me?” I feel this is key to increased compliance and greater patient loyalty.
Once you prescribe what you truly feel is the best match for the patients’ needs, without “options,” the techscan position a year’s suppy and have great success with patient acceptance. We make the assumption that they are staying with us, never focusing on the exception. We find we lose when we position it any other way.
I escort the patient to the contact lens department and ask the technician to fill the order. The tech presents information on prices of a year’s supply, rebates (instant or manufacturer’s), and insurance contribution.
Keep staff on message.The staff is our greatest asset. They help position us as a contact lens practice, using verbiage to make contact lenses exciting. We position ourselves as leaders in the field of vision care. At our staff meetings, the staff learns about the latest advances in the field, how we plan to incorporate thesee new advances, and how to properly communicate the benefits to our patients.
Price on profit margin.We don’t buy like the 1-800s, so we don’t price like them. Internally, we create a spreadsheet with our desired profit margin for the yearly supply. We rank lenses by profitability and by what’s best for the patient. We then determine our lens of choice in each category. We run a business, so we choose the best lenses for the patients and for the practice. Our prices are competitive but know that the 16 percent of the population that places price above all does not value our services and will go elsewhere for a dollar. We put all of our energies in the 84 percent of the population we like to refer to as our “patients” versus “shoppers.”
Present new options.We all should have patients approach us asking, “What’s new, doc?” If you’ve always thought, “This is my lens of choice, and I am sticking with it,” you will lose patients over time. You need to keep up with innovations and present what is new and exciting. This generates excitement, profitability through professional fees and non-commoditized lenses, and most of all, a reputation for being a cutting-edge contact lens practice.
Don’t overlook opportunities. If someone is happy wearing spectacles, we suggest single-use contact lenses for occasional wear. “We’d like you to know about Dailies, which can be worn once and thrown away,” we tell the patient. “You may enjoy wearing them occasionally, say to play sports or for a night out.” We offer one pair in the office, while they are selecting eyewear (as a service in order to help them see well), and then ask them about the experience after the frame selection process. All too often, the patient decides to move forward with a pre-packaged supply of lenses (bundled I&R fees along with 90 packs) on top of the eyewear purchase. The incremental business can be outstanding to your practice and the patient is happier than ever.
Mike Rothschild, OD
West Georgia Eye Care, Carrollton, GA
Always bring up contact lenses.We brand ourselves as keeping up with all the technical advances in eye care, including contacts. We set ourselves apart by helping patients into contact lenses who have had trouble being fitted before. We bring up contact lenses to everyone who is a potential candidate, whether we know if they are interested or not, even if they’ve been in glasses for 30 years.
Monitor price competition.We price contact lenses fairly and stay in range with the competition, even if we are not the cheapest. We pay attention to what the web sites and other retailers are doing.
Recommend the best.I recommend the lens that is best for them and don’t answer questions on pricing. We have information sheets and discounts for a year’s supply, and we let patients know if there are rebates. The technician is in the exam room and knows what I have recommended, and I know what will happen in the fitting room after I am done seeing the patient.
Tiered pricing.We have five different levels of pricing when it comes to contact-lens fittings. Prices are lower for established wearers with no Rx changes, and then progressively higher for single-vision, multifocals, and torics. The most expensive fittings are for post-surgical and kerataconic patients. All of these levels are well-defined on information sheets as well. We get fewer complaints about pricing by making all of this information available up front.
Present prices up front.We have been presenting prices this way as policy for about five years. Previously, when price was presented last at check-out, surprise turned to anger. I got this idea after checking into a hotel, where all the rates and charges were explained during check-in and I had to initial things that were explained. We applied this approach, of explaining charges first, to our contact-lens patients.
Oliver Lou, OD
Signature Eye Care, Cedar Park, TX
Meet patient needs.We are all about customization. We try to figure out the patients’ needs. We will choose two or three options, so they feel they have some control. We tend to recommend new, more breathable products that are healthier, like silicone hydrogel and daily wear, which lead to better compliance.
Price competitively.Our strategy is to price competitively with major national retailers. We price-match aggressively as needed. From the beginning I’ve kept prices competitive. We want them to feel we gave them an honest, fair price. I always ask patients if they are interested in contacts. If we do enough volume we can get good discounts and rebates.
Recommend yearly supply.We recommend a year of refills. Patients can receive at least a $20 instant rebate for a year of contacts, and we get the concept across that you are getting a free box or a rebate by doing so.
With monthlies, they try for a week or so. With dailies, about a trial or a few boxes. I like to lengthen out follow ups. We try to be convenient. We stock 1,500 contact lens boxes. We have all sphericals on hand, and a wide range of brands (nine) and heavily into silicon hydrogel.
Provide information.We have brochures and a screen with info while they wait, but the vast majority is in the exam room between technicians and I. Each patient gets a report that they can refer.
Price levels per type of fit.We have five levels of fitting fees.
If it’s a replacement fit, it’s level 1, $60.
Level 2 is anything with complexity–first time wear, toric fit, RGP, multifocal $80
Level 3 is a combination fitting, like first-time bifocal, $100.
Level 4, $120 is for patients with kerataconics, post RK, or damage from hard lenses.
Level 5 involves complicating factors, multiple visits, one time fee, with no follow-up charges for two months.
We make sure we are there for them no matter how complicated it is.
Educate staff.I teach the techs. We have two staff lunch meetings a week, and every other week is devoted to contact lenses. The technology is getting better. If you stay positive and educate patients, it works. You have to be on the forefront of new technologies and embrace them. Patients will pick up on that enthusiasm, and they tell their friends. Word-of-mouth referrals are up 40 percent.
Takeaways on Presenting Contact Lens Pricing
Ask every potential candidate if they are interested in contacts. They often think that their conditions (e.g., dry eye or presbyopia) will prevent successful fittings.
Stay on top of the latest developments in contact-lens technology. Present products that are healthier, more comfortable, and promote better compliance.
Patient and staff education is key. Fit for patient needs and lifestyle, not for price. Explain pricing for fittings and for lenses clearly to avoid sticker shock at check-out time.
The doctor prescribes the lens; the technicians follow through and take care of the ordering details. Limit the patient’s options to your recommendations, not what they’ve seen marketed on TV or the Internet.
As patient bases age, opportunities abound for increased, successful fittings in multifocals. Fittings of disposables are also noticeably higher..