What is one of the best ways to improve your bottom line this year?
You can add more patients or more hours, but these options will cost more in payroll and marketing.
The best way to improve your bottom line is to increase revenue per patient. This can be done in a number of ways, such as raising prices on frames, lenses, contacts, and services. In spite of that, insurance reimbursement may limit what you receive from eye examinations, medical services, and products, regardless of how these are priced. In addition, today’s competitive market, especially in the contact lens realm, means there are some practical caps on the prices that patients will accept before buying elsewhere.
By using add-ons such as tints, coatings, or second pairs of glasses, you increase revenue per patient without adding extra marketing costs or payroll. Not only will this benefit your bottom line, but it will also provide each patient with more individualized care. Patients appreciate it when doctors and opticians listen carefully to their needs and then meet them with the best solutions.
Are You Using Eyewear Add-ons?
If you do not believe in add-ons, you’ll have a tough time offering it to clients. Make sure your personal eyeglasses have an anti-reflective coating (AR) and an aspheric design for the best vision possible. If you wear contact lenses, make sure to wear sunglasses and have an up-to-date pair of glasses that you can wear when you are not wearing contacts. Wear safety or sports eyewear when participating in activities that could result in eye injuries. Not only will you be a better example to family, friends, and patients, but you’ll also be protecting your own eyes from possible damage.
Ask Lifestyle Questions and Listen
How do you know if your patient works on a computer, fishes on weekends, or has early cataracts? You have to ask questions. A patient who has early cataracts can benefit tremendously from AR to decrease nighttime glare. Clients who work on computers all day may need a second pair of occupational lenses for mid-range work despite what insurance allows. People who spend a lot of time on the water or who have glare from the sun will often find polarized lenses to be far more comfortable than a regular tint.
Many practices and optical stores use lifestyle questionnaires to help identify patients’ needs and wants. These questions can be asked verbally as well. During an exam, I often ask a patient what work they perform and hobbies they pursue. This helps me prescribe a lens that is best for their specific needs. I share that information with the opticians when I transfer the patient to them so that they can continue to educate patients on the best lens features available for their specific needs.
Here are a few of the questions you might ask your clients:
- What kind of work do you perform?
- What hobbies do you enjoy?
- Do you play sports?
- Does glare bother you?
- Do you wear or want to wear contact lenses?
- Do you have a back-up pair of eyewear?
- Do reflections or bright light bother you?
- Do you need safety glasses?
- Do you have any eye conditions?
- Are there any specific visual needs that you have at work or in your hobbies?
You might have a patient who wears glasses but is also considering contact lenses, but you will not know if you do not ask. A client may not know that glasses designed specifically for the computer distance can help reduce eyestrain and headaches. People who suffer from dry eye syndrome might find specific artificial tears or supplements beneficial. If you do not ask your patients how they use their eyes, you are missing a prime opportunity to offer custom treatments and add-ons that can really help improve their vision and eye comfort.
How often have we all heard “I just want what my insurance pays for”? Many of us hear this on a daily basis. However, what insurance pays for and what the patient actually needs may be very different. By educating patients why lens treatments and add-ons contribute to vision comfort and help prevent eye disease or injury, we can often overcome monetary concerns.
We know that ultraviolet (UV) light contributes to the development of cataracts, macular degeneration, and eyelid skin cancers. Anti-reflective coatings reduce night glare and allow people to see better when performing distance activities such as driving. This, in turn, enhances safety. Sports and occupational eyewear protect eyes from injuries. Even if insurance companies do not pay for these items, it does not mean we should avoid talking about these options. We should always educate patients on what lens treatments are best for them, regardless of what insurance providers pay. Even if the patient chooses not to purchase beneficial add-ons at that visit, you have taught that person about the advantages for his or her eyes. This patient might decide to purchase the additional lens treatments and eyewear at a future visit, and this will increase revenue down the road.
Many of us hear contact lens patients say “I always wear my contacts, so I do not need glasses,” or “I have my 10-year-old pair of eyeglasses that still work.” What happens if a patient tears a lens or develops a corneal ulcer and can’t wear contacts? That person might lose work days because he or she does not have current, back-up eyewear and thus can’t see well enough to drive. Always offer back-up glasses to every contact lens wearer at every exam. Both your patient and your bottom line benefit when you offer what’s best for him or her.
Most patients are receptive to considering a second or back-up pair of eyewear if it is offered at a discount. Many stores provide a 50% discount on multiple pairs. While you may not earn as much profit per pair of eyeglasses by offering this discount, your revenue per patient will be higher.
Add-Ons at Checkout
If you’ve ever been to a fast food restaurant, you’ve been asked, “would you like fries or a drink with your sandwich?” The side items are add-ons that increase the restaurant’s revenue per customer. You can put the same principle into play in your office or store and improve your profit while benefiting the patient.
When a patient comes to the store for an adjustment, ask her if she needs another cleaning kit to care for her glasses correctly. If a contact lens client is picking up a yearly supply of new lenses, don’t hesitate to inquire if he needs a new supply of contact lens solution or another case. Remind him to use his sunglasses to protect his eyes from UV damage. Offer to show him several styles if he does not already have a pair.
Keep a display of small ‘impulse items’ near the checkout station. An attractive basket filled with microfiber cloths, decorative contact lens cases, and travel-size bottles of cleaner can be kept near the cash register.
Learning more about our patients’ needs can help us determine which add-ons would best help them. By helping our patients understand the benefits of additional eyewear or lens treatments and demonstrating that we care about their individual needs, we overcome potential objections and improve sales of these important items. This allows us to provide excellent eye care while improving revenue per patient.
– Beth Carlock, OD