By Dave Anderson, OD
March 1, 2017
Prescribing the most technologically advanced contact lenses benefits patients in lessening the chances of harm to the patient’s eyes, and often benefits the practice in generating greater revenues.
Offering patients the latest and greatest in contact lenses also keeps you on the cutting edge, ahead of your competitors. If you don’t introduce new modalities, or new contact lens technology, somebody else will. Our patients have a much greater knowledge about their eyecare options than they ever have, so don’t let the internet be their only, or best, source for new options.
Daily disposable contacts are a very fast growing and easy upgrade for many patients. This is the fastest growing area for contact lens upgrades as our world better understands the value of convenient throw away items, such as single-use coffee makers.
Opportunities for CL Upgrades
Materials: Silicone hydrogels are more oxygen-permeable; promote ocular health, deliver comfort.
Torics: New designs are more predictable, allow you to improve acuity even for marginal astigmats.
Multifocals: Better designs in more comfortable materials, first-try fitting success and immediate adaptation please patients and ECPs; no telltale (bifocal) line of aging.
Colors: Consumer advertising drives patients in to ask about them, with a better variety of colors now available, along with a greater ability to enhance appearance, such as limbal ring highlighting.
Daily disposables: Long-time wearers will enjoy enhanced comfort and ease of care. Accommodates occasional use by eyeglass wearers.
We also incorporate direct-to-home delivery for over 75 percent of our patients, which gives them free shipping, and their supply for the year, right at their home or office. Using annual supplies, rebates on the supply and fitting fees, the patient is able to try new technology without a huge increase in their yearly cost in most cases.
But the biggest benefit to upgrading your patients’ contact lenses is patient loyalty. If they feel you are always looking to help them see and feel their best with their contacts, they consistently look forward to visits and the care at your office.
Financially, there is opportunity to increase fees for your additional services and profit with more expensive lens options, but ultimately, the biggest gain is the total lifetime revenue from a patient who stays in contacts, and continues to see you as their doctor.
The average eyewear sale among independent ODs is $227, according to the Management & Business Academy. The average eyewear sale produces a 61 percent gross profit percentage, or $138 gross profit. Typical contact lens transactions involve two-box sales, generating $80 in revenue, a 47 percent gross profit percentage, and $38 gross profit. In addition, contact lens patients are significantly more valuable to a practice over the long term. That’s because contact lens patients:
• Have more frequent eye exams (every 18 months versus every 24 months for eyeglass-only patients)
• Pay higher fees for exams (average of $96 versus $70)
• Make more frequent purchases (every year versus every 28 months)
“Happy” Not a Good Enough Reason Not to Upgrade
The challenge is many patients who are “happy” in their current contacts are hesitant to make a switch just because the doctor says the new lenses are better for their eyes, or will make their eyes feel even better.
A patient who is happy may not want to change, but this same happy patient has experienced other changes in their lives that made them way happier, including upgrading cell phones, computers and televisions. Happy is only temporary, and happy is not good enough; they should be thrilled with what they wear. Happy patients don’t refer others; patients with the best experiences refer others to you.
Ask to Just Give the New CLs a Try
Recently, a patient who has been in my practice for over 12 years was in for her annual exam. Last year she was happy, saw well with her contacts and just needed a refill to purchase more. I asked her about her job and and how much time she was on a computer.
She told me about additional travel for her job, time spent on her computer at work, and greater use of her tablet from home for a new job role. With all this extra screen time and extra travel, I knew she had some dryness, but had not told me.
I offered her daily disposable contacts for an upcoming trip, and told her to take them for the week, that it would be a great chance for her to try them on the long flight and see how convenient it could be not having to clean lenses as she got used to the time change.
She called to let me know her experience with her contacts was the best she could ever remember. She was so satisfied with her new contacts that she referred three co-workers, who I also fitted into daily disposable lenses.
Ask Key Questions of All CL Wearers
I ask about work and hobbies, travel, and all the other key activities of patients’ lives. I have a conversation and listen carefully to anything that doesn’t fit the “happy patient” profile.
I ask about long days, and if any dryness happens. I always focus on convenience, and also ask about their desire to have LASIK, as this tends to bring up more questions about what they do, and don’t, like about their contacts.
I always give patients options as if they are a brand new patient once I finish the refraction, discussing not only the modality of contacts, but the benefit of a new lens due to changes in astigmatism, or the onset of presbyopia, and let them know they can keep wearing contacts despite these changes, and let them try new lenses regardless of their response.
Address Cost Concerns
Cost is often a concern when switching to a new lens. But that conversation is easy by drawing a parallel between new contacts and other new innovations. Our old cell phone plans were cheap, but provided little compared to smartphones, and single-use coffee is more expensive than brewing a pot of coffee, is viewed as a huge convenience to patients. Daily disposable contacts are more expensive, but offer benefits to eye health and convenience.
Simple analogies like this always help, but the lens trial, and honest discussion about long-term contact lens issues, always help drive decisions past cost concerns.
Long-term issues to discuss include signs found on the eyes that may eventually require the patient to drop out of contact lenses. I also point out the discomfort they soon experience, if they aren’t already, and how vision changes like presbyopia may also require a new lens to provide the best possible vision.
Many of my patients were wearing Soflens 38, and wore them on a monthly basis, and have since been moved into a new daily disposable lens. I never discuss past decisions by other doctors in a negative way. Instead I discuss the age of their current lens and associate that age with other products that were designed around the same time, like cell phones, so they understand the context. I offer all the available options. I sometimes try to keep their wearing habits similar, but upgrade them to something healthier, safer, and which provides better vision.
I always allow the patient to be involved in the decision, saying at the end of the visit, “Your eye health and vision matters to me, and so does your contact lens wearing experience. If you are not happy with the new lens, and would like to go back to your old lens, or even try another new lens, please let me know. I am not ever done helping you feel and see your best with your contacts, and I will always provide you with the best available option every time I see you.” This leaves them in control of their health and eyecare, but also lets them know I care about all their contact lens needs.
Give Patients an Out in Case They Don’t Like New CLs
I always let patients get out of a commitment on purchases if they aren’t happy. This doesn’t happen often, but on occasion, a patient may wear the lens for a few months and find it doesn’t meet their needs. I am committed to patients long term, and this means I want them happy and coming back not only because I solved their vision needs, but also because I was easy to work with. Many of our vendors have a satisfaction guarantee, but even if they don’t, we offer it to all of our patients.