Growing a vision therapy niche from the ground up.
By Jennifer A. Dattolo, OD, FCOVD
Sept. 13, 2023
Vision therapy (VT) can change the lives of patients, enhancing learning abilities and enjoyment of activities. Here are the actions I am taking to build a practice in which 30-40 percent of patients and revenues will come from vision therapy.
Set Initial Goals
When we opened, my goal was to have VT be 30-40 percent of my practice. I knew it would take time for that to become a reality, as we are now around 20 percent VT. Most insurance either does not cover VT or filing goes toward the patient’s deductible, so I would love revenue from VT to be 30-40 percent of our revenue as well.
Grow Referrals from Other Healthcare Practitioners
I used a consultant who was extremely helpful in getting letters out to other ODs, MDs, physical therapists, occupational therapists and others. This consultant also helped with internal marketing through our social media and e-mails to our patients.
Getting the word out that you offer a service like VT that other providers don’t is essential. I have been doing vision therapy for 23 years, prior to owning my own practice, so there were already colleagues who referred patients to me, who continue to do so today.
You have to gain the trust of other optometrists. I do full-scope optometry, so I sell glasses and contacts. However, my referring ODs know that I will NOT sell any of their patients glasses, and will refer patients back to them for prescription changes and other non-VT services.
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Generate Friends & Family Referrals
Changing the lives of my patients and their families also drives in new patients. Happy patients tell their friends. About 40 percent of my VT patients were referred from previous VT patients.
When you have patients and parents who see the improvements in their children, thanks to VT, they tell their friends who have kids or others who may be struggling.
Educate Your Community that VT is Not Just for Kids
Another way to market and grow VT is to let people know that it’s not just for kids – it can help anyone of any age, including teenagers and adults. The majority of adults I see for VT have suffered a head injury (concussion, stroke, etc) and struggle with visual issues that vision therapy can help improve.
Don’t Be Afraid of a “Bare-Bones” Start
In the beginning, I started out bare bones, didn’t have any of the fancy technology, just the basics like what was done 30 years ago. But it works. You don’t have to go all out and spend lots of money initially because the basic tools from years ago are still useful today.
Around three years ago, we invested in a VT computer program and just recently purchased a larger piece of equipment, the Sanet Vision Integrator, which helps work on eye tracking, eye hand coordination, memory and visual motor skills.
I am still the main one doing the VT. I have a staff member who is being trained in VT, however, and will fill in if I have to be out of the office or have an emergency patient to see.
I recommend starting with patients who are “easy” (basic skill deficiencies such as eye tracking, focusing, binocular). Become successful with a few of these basic cases before jumping into the more complicated cases (strabismua, amblyopia). Remember, successful patients refer patients, and becoming comfortable with the basic visual skills training is extremely important for success.
Set Next Goal: Enhancing Office Facility for VT Patients
I have not had to expand our space yet to accommodate our current level of VT patients, but one of my goals is to one day expand the entire office, including adding a room specifically for vision therapy.