By Rachael Click, OD
FSA and HSA dollars are use-it-or-lose-it. Encourage your patients to utilize their funds in your optical.
START EARLY. Begin mentioning flex dollars during back-to-school season in late summer/early fall.
MARKET HOLIDAY GIFTING. Offer gift cards to your optical, or show what great gifts new sunglasses or frames can make.
MARKET INSIDE & OUTSIDE OFFICE. Posters in office can be combined with e-mail promotions encouraging FSA and HSA spending.
At the end of every year, patients with flex-spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) fail to utilize flex-spending dollarsthat will go to waste if they are not spent by Dec. 31. At my practice, we’re making a special effort this year to encourage those patients to spend those resources in our optical. This is a powerful tool for the practice because 50 percent of my patients have either an FSA or HSA. Probably less than 10 percent of my patients have FSAs, and at least 40 percent have HSAs. I overhear our patients asking about using their HSA on a weekly basis. It is important to note a distinction between FSA and HSA: FSA must be used by the end of each year, while HSA dollars can be used at any time.
The poster Dr. Click has at her front desk encouraging patients to use their flex-spending benefits. Dr. Click, who also sent an e-blast to patients with the same message, says the earlier you start messaging patients about spending FSA and health savings account dollars in your office, the better.
Gauge Where You Can Improve
FSA purchases have fallen short compared to recent years. I think there are a few reasons for this. First, we don’t promote it as much as we used to. A few years ago we had an artist on our staff, and she would paint our windows with important messages about FSA and HSA dollars. Our fall message back then was a fall scene with leaves and dollar signs falling from a tree with a message that said “Don’t let your FSA dollars fall away.” It was great because it was large and could be seen from the road. We are still trying to replicate the creativity of that campaign.
The other reason I think there is a decrease is because more people have HSA accounts now than FSA accounts. We have seen a big rise in HSA transactions compared to past years. In a roundabout way, I think we get those purchases throughout the year rather than clumped into the last quarter of the year.
Start Advertising FSA/HSA Spending Early
We’ve always started our FSA promotion in the fall, typically in October. I could see a benefit in promoting year round, but you should definitely market use of FSA and HSA dollars by late summer to coincide with the back-to-school season. I think the earlier you promote, the better the results you will see.
FSA/HSA Shoppers Tend to Spend More
When people have FSA dollars to use it seems like they make all of their must-have purchases rather than settling on one pair. They are more likely to buy the year supply of multi-focal daily disposable contacts, new PALs and sunglasses because they have to spend the money. I also have noticed they are more likely to go outside of their fashion comfort zone and take a risk because they have to spend the money.
Editor’s Note: FSA and HSA funds cannot be spent on non-prescription and OTC items, however there are conditions under which they are covered if a prescription is written. For a full accounting of “qualified medical expenses” on which FSA and MSA funds can be spent, consult Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans from the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service.
Market Holiday Gifting Opportunity
We have had family members buy plano sunglasses as stocking stuffers as a holiday gift. I like the idea of offering a gift certificate for products like plano sunglasses. I would make sure the gift certificate stated how important it is to protect your eyes against UV and the issued certificate would allow the person to pick out something they felt pretty in while protecting their eyes.
Market Inside and Outside Office
We have a sign at the front desk that explains how you can use your FSA dollars at the practice. We also sent out an online newsletter through Websystems 3 publicizing that FSAs can be used at the practice. These two things didn’t require any extra money as we already have an account with Websystems 3. It cost my staff less than an hour worth of time to make our internal sign and customize the Websystems 3 template.
In the future we might give patients specific ideas on how to use their FSA or HSA dollars. For instance, we might have a poster or online ad suggesting purchasing a second pair of fun, fashion-forward glasses using FSA or HSA dollars. Currently, our wording on our FSA campaigns is not that specific, but, rather, just states that FSA can be used on sunglasses, glasses and contacts. I think the more specific or creative we are, the better the results we will have.
Measure Results After Promotional Campaign
Typically, marketing efforts can take at least several weeks to produce results, but with an FSA campaign that is done later in the year, you will probably see immediate results because those dollars expire within a short timeframe.