By Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO
May 25, 2016
Investing in the latest instrumentation raises the level of care you provide, which in turn, can build your practice. Patients see you are on the cutting edge of care, and you can bill for topography and more anterior segment picture capabilities.
My practice is careful about the technology it invests in, and how these new pieces of equipment–major investments for a one-OD practice–are financed.
Determine Goal of Each Purchase
A year ago, purchased two Marco TRS systems (automated refraction), along with the OPD (advanced wavefron tmeasurements/topography/autorefractor/pupillometer/aberrometer). I made these purchases to have more advanced information regarding refraction for my patients, and to streamline the refracting process and bring another wow experience for my patients. This makes refracting easier for both patients and doctor.
It saves me about 3-5 minutes per patient, which has allowed me to spend that time educating, or I have the option of seeing 2-3 more patients per day. The time saved per exam can add up to $192,000 in additional revenues per annum.
I got pricing on these pieces of equipment through my optometric alliance, Vision Source. I got great three-year financing, and because the rate was very good, I took it. I was going to pay cash for the purchase, but I decided to free that cash up for other areas of my practice because of the excellent rate.
Evaluate the Benefits of Financing Methods
I was going to pay cash, which would be great in the sense there is no monthly obligation for payment for years. Paying cash, you own it right away and can profit clean and clear from day one. However, laying out a large sum of cash depletes reserve funds, which can be used to build the practice in other ways. Again, because I had such a great financing option available, I was able to use funds toward other debt pay-down, expanding my frame lines, and doing more marketing for the practice to educate patients about the new technology I just purchased.
I think the most important thing to remember is that there is more than one way to bring new technology into the practice, and most doctors can probably afford the technology sooner than they realize. Cash, finance, or a combination of both, or even sharing technology between practices all are ways to better serve your patients.
Another part of the equation with purchasing new technology is that private pay revenue (such as screening retinal pictures or OCT) adds medical revenue (billing for approved procedural codes). This is how I was able to justify bringing in both my retinal camera and OCT.
I’m always looking at ROI for my equipment purchases. For a piece of diagnostic equipment that has a billable and/or private pay opportunity, this is fairly straightforward. However, it wasn’t quite as easy since I was already doing refractions on patients; I just upgraded the technology to do so. What the refraction technology did do for me, and what I counted on, was extra time to educate patients on their eyewear and prescription options.
Additionally, I can easily show patients with a touch of a button comparisons to old and new prescriptions. Both of these advantages have led to a 30-percent increase in my optical sales since I started using the new Marco equipment. This amount has far exceeded my expectations and has proven even more financially lucrative than I hoped. The financial benefits come from both sales and exams, but mostly sales because I have more time to spend with patients educating them.
Determine Monthly Carrying Cost
I carry about a $2,200 monthly total payment on all the instruments I currently finance. I figured this technology would need to allow me to fit in 1-2 more exams per day, but at my average per patient revenue of about $500, that was covered easily within a few days of seeing patients. What I really value, though, is the increased time I can discuss with patients their eyewear options, health of the eye, etc. I don’t aspire to be a high-volume practice, but would like to continue increasing revenue per patient, and this allows me to do so.
Consider New Technology Investments
I’m constantly searching, exploring and then planning for the next piece of equipment or new technology. Since the time I started cold, I have maintained a list of equipment I need, and an order in which I wanted to purchase these items. Now, it’s nice because I already have core pieces of technology to maximize care for my patients. I’m now looking to add technology that will enhance that care.
I’m currently considering enhanced dry eye treatments and technology/testing, as well as expanding some of my vision therapy technology. And when the time comes to purchase equipment for this, computing smart financing will be a big part of the equation.