Dina Miller, OD, had worked at 15-plus optometry practices by the time she opened Spanish Oaks Eyecare & Optical Boutique in Cedar Park, TX, last year. “I had learned a lot about what I wanted my practice to be like,” she says. The result is an independent, “patient-centered” optometry office and optical with an ABO-advanced certified optician and a doctor who strives “to put myself in [patients’] shoes to see the entire experience, not just the eye exam, from their point of view.” Given the ocular health benefits and range of available parameters, Miller believes daily disposables are the best option for nearly every contacts patient. But they are costlier than other modalities, prohibitively so for some patients. To get them to as many patients as possible, she launched a subscription-based program.

“We wanted to be able to offer dailies to all patients. The rebates on new daily lenses are incredible,” Miller says. By offering a subscription plan, she figured, patients could apply their insurance benefits and take advantage of manufacturers’ rebates while paying monthly, instead of $500 or more for lenses all at once. For a modest initial payment (or the vision plan contact lens allowance) and then 11 automatic monthly payments starting the following month, Spanish Oaks orders and holds the annual supply, dispensing every 90 days. Since the supply is invoiced to the patient, they can utilize the manufacturer’s rebate, further reducing cost. 

 

Let’s say a 90 pack of Lens X dailies retails for $75 or an annual cost of $600. Spanish Oaks adds a small “subscription fee” to cover the cost of a year’s storage (say, $25 for a total of $625). If the patient has vision benefits, that is applied as the first month’s down payment; if they have a $150 contact lens benefit, it’s subtracted from the total ($625-$150=$475). The balance is divided by 11 to calculate the monthly charge, or $43.18. “Overall,” says Miller, “the price is slightly higher than purchasing outright, but this allows the patient to submit the rebate, as they signed an agreement to purchase the annual supply, and $43.18/month is much more reasonable than $475 all at once.” 

The subscription allows Spanish Oaks to provide the best lenses without unnecessary risk. “The cost is paid prior to dispensing, and additional staff time is offset by the subscription fee,” she says. 

The biggest challenge was putting together the patient agreement that authorizes the monthly credit card charge and spells out the program’s details. 

The response has been great. “Patients like having the option of daily lenses without the up-front cost,” Miller says. “It’s also a blessing to families with multiple members wearing dailies.”   

The main benefit is an increase in daily contact lens sales, but it also builds loyalty by showing that “we are looking out for their best interests, both visual and financial,” Miller says. Finally, there’s the boost to optical sales. “Patients are more likely to purchase glasses when they aren’t paying up front for their contacts,” she says. 

Miller says the basic requirements are straightforward. “If you have a few extra shelves, and your staff can spare 20-30 minutes per month running credit cards, this program will probably work for you.”

 

DO IT YOURSELF: CONTACT LENS SUBSCRIPTION PLAN

1. TRGO FIGURE. Check wholesale costs. “Make sure the down payment covers the first 90-day supply, in case they change their mind,” Miller says.

2. AS VALUE ADDED. The benefits grow with daily multifocals. In Spanish Oaks’ case, $81.64/month vs. $1,048 annually ($898 after insurance).

3. AS RUN IT BY THE REPS. Miller spoke to several contact lens companies, who agreed she was within the guidelines of their rebates. 

4. CIINSURERS IN THE LOOP. . “Insurance and vision plans... allow us to provide the best lenses... without [imposing] a formulary list,” Miller says. 

5. GO DELIVERING THE GOODS. Spanish Oaks offers subscribers the option of having lenses mailed for an additional charge of $3/month.


This article originally appeared in the July-August 2018 edition of INVISION. 

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