1. LISTEN AND ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Clinicians often ask if patients are interested in contact lenses. Stop! This closed-ended question leaves little room for discussion. Dr. Stephen Cohen of Doctor My Eyes in Scottsdale, AZ, says: “I prefer to ask a patient, ‘In what situations would you like to be able to see without your glasses?’” Some people like the thought of not wearing glasses at social events, for example. This leads to a discussion about contacts, even for part-time use. “Many who started as occasional contact lens wearers become full-time wearers,” Dr. Cohen states. 

2. DISCUSS DAILY REPLACEMENTS

For patients wearing another modality, start discussing single-use contact lenses as an add-on for when they're traveling so they don't need to bring a case or solutions. Dr. Cohen says such patients often switch to daily lenses, having enjoyed the convenience, vision and health benefits. Dr. Raj Patel of Vancouver Vision Clinic in Vancouver, WA, says: “We believe strongly in the concept of one. Dispose your contacts every day or month. Compliance and recall are higher.”

3. OFFER AN ANNUAL SUPPLY

Tuli Santiago, office manager at Dr. Dawn Arnold’s practice in Union, NJ, says, “What’s working for us is to promote annual sales to patients. Our reps give us updates on rebates, sometimes as much as $200 off.” Teach patients how to redeem rebates; maybe even take the time to submit one on a patient’s behalf. If a patient buys a year’s supply, Santiago’s practice offers a discount on over-the-counter sunglasses. About 40 percent of patients take it. Dr. Cohen says he always presents the annual supply option. “Dispensing a year supply from inventory saves staff time,” he explains. It also reinforces the need for an annual exam." 

4. MAKE IT EASY TO BUY

Dr. Patel believes you need to make it easy for patients to obtain contact lenses. Vancouver Vision Clinic has created a benefits card. One side shows the patient the lowest per box price (retail minus volume savings, insurance, rebate and shipping cost). The other explains what the practice will do for the patient (volume savings, rebates, emergency trials when a year supply is purchased, free shipping, exchange of unopened boxes for new power). “We call this the ‘giftwrap,’” Patel says. “What the patient is really buying is the relationship. If a patient walks in with their Rx, we simply staple our benefits card to the box so they know what they’re missing if they don’t buy from us.”

5. TRY DAILY MULTIFOCALS

“One of the largest areas of growth for our practice has been daily multifocals,” says Dr. Blake Hutto of Family Vision Care in Alma, GA. “I was finishing an exam with a patient and was one foot out the door when I happened to stop and ask, ‘Would you ever be interested in contact lenses?’ She leapt at the chance. Her prescription included about a diopter of astigmatism in both eyes, and she had low level dry eye syndrome. After completing a successful fit, she jumped up and gave me a bear hug. She was most impressed by the fact that, after she had told me ‘Dr. X said I would never be able to wear contacts,’ I saw that as a puzzle to solve, rather than as an excuse to jump to my next patient.”

6. FOCUS ON COMFORT 

“Comfort is what I target first,” says Dr. Hutto. “If a lens isn’t comfortable, who cares how fantastic the vision is? The fit will likely not be a success. Any patient who is over 45 and being fit with contacts, I assume some level of dryness. Dailies get patients the comfort they need by cancelling out chronic buildup of deposits which occur on monthly contact lenses, even when cared for meticulously. Soaking lenses leaves the patient exposed to preservatives, worsening dryness. Daily disposables eliminate these problems."

7. SEE CHILDREN AS AN OPPORTUNITY

“We often neglect the opportunity with younger patients, particularly the 10- to 14-year-olds,” says Dr. Cohen. “I present contact lenses as an option, and say they are good candidates when mom and dad say it’s okay. I present CRT as an option to possibly slow or stop progressing myopia, and  UV-blocking contact lenses for kids who spend more time outdoors.” 

8. CHARGE A FITTING FEE

On average, contact lens wearers return every 15 months for an exam, spectacle wearers every 30 months. This points to hidden revenue and profit. Dr. Patel charges every contacts wearer a fitting fee. “If you want to fit more multifocals, do it and increase your fee,” he advises. “These patients are highly motivated to reduce the need for readers.”

9. OFFER A TRIAL

Dr. Hutto’s patients leave with the “Coke/Pepsi challenge of contacts.” They're given trial packs of DAILIES Aqua Comfort Plus and DAILIES Total 1. The office checks after a few days to see which were more comfortable.

10. FIT SCLERAL LENSES

Dr. Patel’s partner, Dr. Derek McTyier, has built a following due to his ability to fit scleral lenses. It's a growing part of their practice. Dr. Dawn Arnold has seen a 98 percent success rate fitting scleral lenses for keratoconus. “Scleral fits are doing wonderfully well,” says Santiago, who works at Dr. Arnold’s practice. They do Ortho-K fits too. The global fee covers the doctor’s time, lenses, solutions, office visits, and fitting. 

11. BE A TRUSTED SOURCE

“It’s our job to tell patient what’s new in materials, designs and solutions,” says Dr. Patel, adding: “They've come to expect it from us.”

12. SPEND MORE TIME WITH PATIENTS

Dr. Hutto says the key to a profitable practice is giving time to patients, not trying to see 50 a day. “This not only gives you a happy patient, it creates mobile advertising for your practice ... advertising you don’t pay for, but one that pays you!” 


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 edition of GO/OD.

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