By Jennifer L. Stewart, OD
June 16, 2021
Sometimes small changes in the optical can translate into big profit increases. Here are a couple changes recommended to me by my optical lab representatives, whom we refer to as our lab consultants. Implementing these suggestions will both elevate patient care and increase our profitability.
Pare Down Progressive Lens Offerings
We were advised to decide which progressive lenses worked for our patients best and were most profitable, and then prescribe only those lenses. To do this effectively we will need to make sure our optical staff is well versed on the benefits and pricing of the select progressive lenses we decide to stick with. This means choosing 3-5 progressives that best suit our patients, and then hold a few training sessions in which we review pricing and lens categories for the progressive lenses under the two managed vision plans we accept, VSP and EyeMed.
Limiting the number of lens choices streamlines your decision-making when prescribing, ensuring that the lens your patient ends up with is among the select few you consider the best. Limiting the number of lens choices also makes your opticians’ jobs significantly easier. In addition, fewer lens choices streamlines the optical sale and makes the optical more efficient. Ideally this also cuts down on mistakes with pricing and insurance billing as there are fewer lenses for your staff to be familiar with.
Profitability will be enhanced for my practice because I will be choosing to prescribe only those progressive lenses that are best for patients and profitable for us under the two managed vision care plans we accept. I will be prescribing only lenses that are premium, and therefore, reimbursed higher through VSP and Eyemed, and have a higher out-of-pocket cost to the patient. The patient gets a better lens material and design, which enhances their vision and increases their satisfaction.
Some practices let the opticians choose the lenses the practice uses based on the opticians’ preference or comfort. Meeting with your lab consultant to go over your lens offerings and make sure you are choosing the most profitable lenses for your practice is a great way to pare down the lenses you are using into only those that are best for both your patients and practice. The lab consultant can also make sure you are coding and billing properly, so you aren’t leaving money on the table with managed care plans when selling those lenses.
When making a switch to only prescribing a few progressive lenses, it helps to have your lab consultant visit the office to educate staff about why you are making this change. Hearing the reasons why this change will be beneficial from an outside source can give opticians a better understanding of the importance of the change and why it may be worth temporary discomfort as they get used to the new way of doing things.
A conversation with your lab consultants may reveal that you are undercharging for your products. For example, our lab consultant pointed out that we should evaluate how much we were charging for Transitions Lenses.
There is often push-back from optical staff when increasing pricing. They worry that any increase will make patients more likely to pass on lens upgrades. Hearing from an outside source like a lab consultant that we may need to raise our prices made getting buy-in from opticians much easier.
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It is well worth it to raise prices if you have been undercharging. For instance, if you raise your Transitions pricing $25, and you sell 100 pairs of Transition lenses per month, that is an increase of $2,500 month in profit! That would amount to an additional $30,000 annually.
There is a twofold impact to increasing pricing. First, higher pricing has an automatic increase in profitability for the practice as your increase is all profit. Secondly, we find whenever we talk as a staff about something (in this case Transitions), we automatically increase our sales just by being more aware. When we had the discussion about Transitions in our office and increased the price, we also saw an increase in our Transitions sales as opticians had Transitions on their mind. You can do the same with AR, polarized lenses and other lens products.
Using your lab representatives as consultants, asking for and listening to their input, can literally pay off by creating a more profitable optical.
Jennifer Stewart, OD, is a partner in Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, Conn. She also is founder and chief vision officer of Performance 20/20, a sports vision training center in Stamford, Conn. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org