By Harry N. Snyder, OD, FAAO
The recent adoption of the unilateral pricing policy (UPP) by contact lens manufacturers is a bold move that I applaud as a contact lens specialist because it puts the control of the patient back in the hands of the doctor. UPP also is a good thing for our patients because their eye health may well be improved as a result of it.
Under UPP, select new contact lens products cannot be sold for less than a set minimum price, or the manufacturer will stop supplying them to violators of the policy. This levels the playing field for everyone who dispenses contact lenses. Now, since independent optometrists no longer have to worry about being undercut on price for premium lenses, we can concentrate on delivering the best care to our patients. Without fear of losing patients to low-cost lens vendors, we can be sure that our patients wear the lenses we recommend and care for them as we instruct them to.
I’ve been prescribing contact lenses since 1974, and contact lenses have grown to be 50 percent of my practice. Over the years, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the loss of control by the doctor. I’ve taken patients through a comprehensive exam and contact lens fitting, only to have them ask, “Can I have my prescription? I’m going to get my contact lenses online.”
Along with more patients buying contact lenses outside the optometry office, I’ve seen a rise in problems related to this loss of control: patients presenting with ulcers, infiltrates, GPC—or even wearing multiple contact lenses on their eyes, stacked one upon another.
UPP holds the potential to turn around this unfortunate trend toward non-compliance.
First, I can tell the patient, “You can go elsewhere to purchase your contact lenses, but I can assure you that you will not find this lens for less anywhere else.” Then, by holding on to the dispensing of the contact lens, I know for certain what lens goes on their eye. I also can walk the patient through the care steps and make sure they use the solutions I recommend and put into their hands.
In this regard, UPP may well cut down on the non-compliance that potentially imperils the eye health of our patients.
Related ROB Blog on UPP
By Paul Karpecki, OD, FAAO
Along with adopting UPP, some manufacturers are eliminating lens rebate programs. Rebates were often difficult for consumers to understand, and using them was tedious and time-consuming for the practice. Worse, if patients did not get reimbursed promptly, they often held the practice at fault, not the manufacturer.
Importantly, with UPP, the doctor can return to being a professional and restore contact lens prescribing as a profitable part of the practice. This allows us to concentrate on the specialized services that differentiate an independent optometric practice from online vendors and big-box retailers.
Namely, we can provide contact lenses the same day as the exam and in a one-year supply that brings patients back to us for a yearly check-up when they need their next supply. (In our office, we sell annual supplies to 75 percent of our contact lens patients.) We can give patients extra lenses, and we can take back lenses if the fit or comfort is not optimal. And, most importantly, we can do all of this while providing the best care of our patients’ eyes.
Harry N. Snyder, OD, FAAO, owns Northern Virginia Doctors of Optometry, with locations in Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and Reston, Va. The practice offers a full range of vision care and medical eyecare, contact lens prescribing, LASIK evaluations, cataract consultations, Rx surgery co-management, low vision and ocular disease management. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org.