By Jennifer L. Stewart, OD
June 1, 2022
Your practice’s profitability is dependent on many factors. Among the most important for practices with an optical is eyewear capture rate.
Here are key actions I took in my own practice, which you can also take in your practice to improve capture rate, and in the process, add significantly to your annual revenues.
Decrease Patient’s Own Frame (POF) Glasses Sales
The first step to improving this metric–and all metrics–is to measure it, preferably with help from a metrics-tracking technology like ABB Analyze or EDGEPro.
We spend significant time in my practice talking about how to become more profitable without seeing more patients. I truly feel that decreasing the POF percentage in your practice is a great way to increase capture rate and per patient revenue by working smarter and not harder. This needs to be communicated well to staff so they feel empowered in the optical to educate patients about the need for a complete new pair of glasses and not just lenses. This also requires constant management and oversight by the practice owner to make sure it is done properly.
When I speak to a patient about needing a new pair of glasses or a new Rx, I don’t shy away from talking about why they shouldn’t use the same frame for new lenses. I will inspect the frame in the exam room and show them areas of the frame that are stressed or weakened. I let them know that there is a risk of breakage if they reuse their current frame.
I then talk about the benefits the patient may have through their managed care plan, and how if we cut lenses for their own frame and it broke, they would have used the lens benefit already. I talk about how the pair they have will serve well as a backup pair, and then walk them to the optical to meet with the optician. I usually speak to the optician privately and let them know the patient wanted to use their own frame and that we discussed the frame condition. Our opticians have been trained to reiterate this message.
In the exam room, it may add a few minutes to discuss the condition of a patient’s frame, but it’s completely worth it. If the average revenue per patient of a practice is $300, and by spending a few extra minutes with a patient you can raise that to $325 and not see any new patients, that is truly worth the time spent.
Not every patient will need or get a new frame, and some of those exams are contact lens wearers. However, if you could sell a few more frames per month it could increase the average revenue total.
Let’s say you have an average revenue per patient of $300, and the practice sees 12 patients a day/5 days a week/50 weeks a year. If you were to increase this to $325 by solely focusing on selling more frames and not seeing more patients, you would see an increase of $75,000 gross revenue.
Sell More Second Pairs By Systematically Asking About ALL Visual Needs
I started focusing on conversations in the exam room around sunglasses, computer pairs, reading-only glasses and backup glasses for contact lens wearers. I also began reminding the front desk to ask patients to bring ALL glasses with them for their appointments, including sunglasses, reading, etc. In addition, I started training technicians to ask patients if they have sunglasses and other eyewear.
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With all these reminders, I didn’t forget to remind myself to do the same in the exam room. I remind myself to discuss ALL glasses needs of patients. Do they have Rx and non-Rx sunglasses? If a progressive wearer, do they have separate computer and reading glasses? If a contact lens wearer, do they have appropriate, up-to-date backup glasses? Do they wear protective eyewear for sports?
The time this conversation adds to the exam is minimal, no more than a couple minutes. I tie the conversation to specific needs and complaints a patient may have. For example, a patient expressing visual trouble using their computer while wearing progressives presents the perfect opportunity to discuss the value of a computer-specific lens or single-vision lens to be used especially for computer work.
The small investment of time can pay off in multiples in sales in the optical. It just requires the doctor remembering to go through each potential visual need with the patient in the exam room.
I use a mental checklist, but you also could have a checklist on your computer or tablet in the exam room to prompt you in this conversation. What are the possible needs for each patient? How can I tie this back to their chief complaint or a complaint in the exam room to make it less of a sale and more of an answer to a problem they came in with?
We are all pressed for time in the exam room and have a lot to cover, but taking an extra few minutes in presenting these options to a patient can be extremely profitable. I’d rather spend an extra five minutes with each patient and have a higher capture rate and higher per patient revenue than try to see more patients.
It can seem daunting to go through each pair of glasses needed for a patient, but if you have good, well-trained employees they can tee you up for this conversation. We use scribes who pretest the patients and do entrance testing, so the scribes often are the ones uncovering visual challenges and possible eyewear needs before I even enter the room. They are good at asking incisive questions, and do it while they are pretesting, which means it takes no additional time. They let me know what our patients have said, and even know by now what I am going to recommend!
Jennifer Stewart, OD, is a partner at Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, Conn, and the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of Performance 20/20, a sports and performance training center. She also provides advisory services and consulting to the optometric community through her company, OD Perspectives. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.