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Only 55% of ECPs Will Not Be Changing Pricing In Light of COVID-19 Shutdowns

But profitable scheduling while maintaining sanitation and social distancing has become the biggest challenge facing most businesses.

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DESPITE THE PROMISING start and a lot of hopes pinned, 2020 is not shaping up to be the year of vision we had hoped. With most ECPs’ revenues having taken a serious hit thanks to nationwide shutdowns of a month or more, the question of how they plan to recoup that lost revenue, and the other major challenges their businesses were facing, was a question we put to our audience in the third of INVISION’s COVID-19 Impact Surveys.

55 percent reported that they would not be adjusting their fees in the near term to account for the time they were shut down or the economic downturn, but 10 percent said they did plan to adjust their prices UP and 5 percent said they planned to adjust them DOWN. Of the 120 respondents, a full 30 percent said price adjustments remained to be seen.

Those who were adjusting prices up cited the increased costs of seeing fewer patients with more stringent sanitation measures. “We are not adjusting to account for the shutdown, but to account for the increased cost of seeing patients with PPE, more disposable items in the office, like tonometer probes,” explains Dr. Victoria Mar at Eye Care at Rhodes Ranch in Las Vegas, NV. “With the cost of the extra cleaning and the time we have to take out of the schedule we will need to make a small increase to our fees,” confirms Nicole Leonard of Custom Eye Care in San Antonio, TX, as well as Dr. Angie Patteson of Sunset Eye Care, in Johnson City, TN, who says, “The cost of supplying masks, cleaning products, and gloves will need to be absorbed by increasing prices slightly.”

While others used this opportunity to make some upgrades. “We’re not raising prices to account for the time out, but we are getting new equipment that will be a part of all routine exams, so adjusting the price for that,” shares Jenna Gilbertson Steiner of McCulley Optix Gallery in Fargo, ND. Simply put, “Increased costs mean increased pricing,” according to John Butler of Eye Consultants of Atlanta in Atlanta, GA.

Some who said they were adjusting their prices down, meant they would be having sales to move inventory that has just been sitting. “Having a huge frame sale-can’t wait to buy new styles but need to make room,” says Jennifer Leuzzi, Mill Creek Optical in Dansville NY. While others had taken the time closed to revamp and streamline their offerings. “We used the opportunity of being closed to get set up with a new lab who offers us much better pricing on lenses, treatments and ‘express packages.’ We have lowered prices on almost all lens products and have three new price points for economically stressed patients,” shares Susan Halstead of Family Vision Care Center in Saratoga Springs, NY.

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Of course, some are taking a more wait and see approach. “I am closely monitoring chair cost and payroll costs,” says Dr. Brian Courtright of Prescott Valley Eye Care in Prescott Valley, AZ. And Dr. Zachary Dirks of St. Peter and Belle Plaine Eyecare Centers in Saint Peter, MN, predicts, “To some degree we will have to see, but once we are more stable, we likely will have to increase some things.” While others won’t be changing fees per se but with change their promotional plans for the year. “At this time, no adjustments will be made,” explains Selena Jachens of Urban Eyecare & Eyewear in West Des Moines, IA, “But we will continue to offer out of pocket discounts and will most likely have a promotion each month for the summer to make up any losses.”

But pricing isn’t the only challenges these re-opened businesses are facing. Maintaining health and safety protocols was the number one cited challenge as reported by 24 percent of respondents, with meeting payroll, rent, etc. the second at 15 percent and logistical issues the third at 14 percent.

Additional challenges have been the increased stress and anxiety of business owners and staff, as well as making up revenue. But the number one written-in challenge was finding enough time in the day to accommodate patient demand. Some of those comments include:

  • “Trying to increase patient flow to increase revenue, all while limiting the number of bodies in the office for social distancing.” — Victoria Mar, OD, Eye Care at Rhodes Ranch, Las Vegas, NV
  • “Seeing enough patients per day to keep them and staff safe while also being able to be profitable.” — Susan Halstead of Family Vision Care Center in Saratoga Springs, NY
  • “Balancing keeping things efficient (profitable), not over staffing, keeping things clean, and running on time is an ongoing issue. The doctor doing pretests, special tests, cleaning between patients and ramping up patients per hour is not working well.” — Brian Courtright, OD, Prescott Valley Eye Care, Prescott Valley, AZ.
  • “Moving patients to fit fewer appointment slots each day to allow for more cleaning between patients, and trying to accommodate many patient reschedules and requests to get in as soon as possible.” — Deb Jaeger, Eye Center of the Dakotas, Bismarck, ND
  • “Our patients are ready to return, but we need to limit the number of people in the office and have limited staff, so we are booking out about a month.” — Elizabeth Knaus, A to Z Eye Care, Arcata, CA
  • “A lot of people want appointments. We are spreading them out so we only have limited spaces each day. Some people get frustrated knowing it will be two or three weeks before we can see them.” — Jeff Grosekemper, Casa De Oro Eyecare, Spring Valley, CA
  • “ Essentially finding the time to increase the number of patients we can see while following our very strict protocols.” — Zachary Dirks, OD, of St. Peter and Belle Plaine Eyecare Centers in Saint Peter, MN

But, we did get a silver lining! “It has been a pleasant surprise. All this appointment-only activity cuts down on time wasters; when they try to cancel last minute and are told that the next available appointment is in three to four months, they change their schedules to attend,” shares Kimberly Butts of Baymeadows Vision Center in Jacksonville, FL.

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Having built a career in service journalism, Dee has been covering the eyecare industry for over a decade. As editor-in-chief of INVISION Magazine, she is passionate about telling independent ECPs stories and can be reached directly at [email protected]

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