By Kimberly K. Friedman, OD, FAAO
Feb. 10, 2021
I have an office in New Jersey, which was hit hard early in the pandemic. During a mandatory nearly three-month shutdown, we were forced to quickly develop practice survival strategies. I adopted a few tactics for increasing revenues that were so successful that we have carried those strategies forward into 2021.
There Are Big Rewards for Optimizing Telemedicine
Telemedicine was a saving grace for our office when we were shut down. I don’t advocate annual ocular health or refractive examinations through remote technology, but there is no reason we can’t handle basic chalazion, hordeolum, blepharitis, allergic conjunctivitis, dermatitis and follow-up visits using telemedicine. We generated around $15,000 in telemedicine income while we were shut down, and we were a little late to get going with it. That isn’t a huge amount of money, but with the office generating so little at that time, it was a big help.
Beyond the income advantages, telemedicine is a service patients want, and it has generated multiple new patient referrals. In addition, we now bill insurance via the telemedicine program for those weekend after-hour calls we used to accommodate at no charge. It’s nice to be compensated for those after-hours calls and have a means to see a few more appointments via telemedicine on days when the office is functioning at full capacity. We have one doctor who works from home part time and has regular telemedicine appointment availability every week now. That was something we never considered pre-COVID.
Home Delivery of In-Demand Products Is a Revenue-Generator
An additional revenue stream we greatly benefited from last year was nutraceuticals–because we could have the products purchased from us delivered to patients’ homes. The home delivery of our recommended AREDS 2 and Omega-3 products generated around $30,000 during the pandemic’s early months.
Partner with a nutraceutical company that can provide for patient home delivery because research shows that only 10 percent of patients will stay compliant on your recommendations if they have to return to your office to get the product. It makes sense, if you sell the patient something in your office, when they run low they will likely just pick up a substitute at a drug store or big-box store when they are already there–unless they can easily have the product delivered to their home. Time and convenience matter- we live in the age of Amazon. Patients expect home delivery, and felt it was required during the shutdown. A nutraceutical company that offers home delivery, like a mail-order pharmacy, will increase your revenue into the future and ensure patient compliance on the formula you feel is best for the patient.
Maximize Direct Shipment of CLs to Patients
Speaking of home delivery, we stopped having patients come to the office to pick up contact lenses many years ago, but COVID reinforced the benefits of doing this. If you haven’t made that switch—no better time than the present! The cost to the office is generally the same either way, and the cost in staff time of opening boxes, sorting through invoices and charts, notifying patients, and the inconvenience to the patient and possible increased virus exposure risk, is not worth it.
Your Services Should Reflect the Fullest Scope of Your License Abilities
COVID pushed people to put off routine care that could be postponed. But the need for medical eyecare doesn’t stop in a pandemic. Consider adding new specialty services, and increase the scope of your medical offerings and billings.
Other Articles to Explore
Highlight that your office is available for emergency injuries and infections, and make sure your patients know if you offer specialty procedures like IPL, lipiflow or blephex. We printed postcards with our practice information and delivered them to our local urgent care facilities, as they often don’t want to deal with eye-related issues. We also put information on our practice website, social media and on-hold phone messaging system about our medical eyecare services.
In addition, I recommend co-managing refractive and cataract surgeries, and most importantly, reinforcing with every office visit that you are the place to call (not the primary doctor or urgent care) for eye or eyelid infections or traumas or sudden vision changes.