By Russ Tolar
Featuring personalized lenses–customized to the slightest variations within each patient’s vision–allows you to offer something many competitors do not. Personalized lenses provide an enhanced visual experience at a premium price.
Any optometric practice can sell a patient a pair of eyeglasses to correct their vision. But how many can sell lenses customized for the slightest aberrations in their vision? Personalized lenses, such as the Shamir Autograph II lenses which our practice offers, allows you to go beyond correcting vision to creating a pair of eyeglasses that takesaccommodates such things as the way a patient moves her head. When thinking about how to distinguish your optical and the patient experience you provide, you probably first think of the expertise and sales skills of your opticians and your wide selection of frames. As director of operations for Eyecarecenter, a group of professional eyecare practices with locations across the US, I notice that many ODs fail to consider the most important aspect of a patient’s eyeglasses purchase–the ophthalmic lenses that the doctor prescribes to correct their vision.
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How Much Revenue is Generated?
Personalized lenses hold the potential to greatly increase revenues while differentiating a practice. The key is for a practice to present this premium option well (beginning with the doctor recommending the best option during the exam) and to conduct the additional measurements that set this modality apart from other lens options.
Many practices present ophthalmic lenses in three tiers. Retail pricing varies with region and venue, but the most basic or “standard” lens commonly is priced at $200 a pair and up. A second tier of “customized” lenses that incorporates freeform optics to correct for visual aberrations may run $350 a pair and upward.
The third tier is “personalized” lenses that command premium pricing of $600 a pair—and sometimes far more. As the name implies, this requires individualized measurements that compute eye and head movement, and which are incorporated with frame information and the patient’s optical measurements to create a unique eyewear experience.
Personalized lenses are a premium option for select patients, but with common markups of 2x to 3x, upgrading even a small number of patients to personalized lenses can boost revenues dramatically. The revenue increase is even greater over time, since patients who grow accustomed to the visually enhanced experience of personalized lenses balk at ever downgrading to customized or standard lenses.
To make our patients Shamir Autograph II lenses, each patient is first measured for the following:
1. Vertex distance (refracted and fitted): Vertex distance is the distance from the front of the eye to the back of the lens,whether it is in the phoropter or in the frame.
2. Pantoscopic tilt: Pantoscopic tilt is the angle of the frame to the face on the patient (in the phoropter this is zero fora frame 8-10mm).
3. Panoramic angle: Panoramic angle is the parabolic curve of the frame in relation to a flat plane (the curvature of the frame in relationship to the patient’s face).
Those measurements are then fed into Shamir digital technology, which creates a formula that our ophthalmic laboratory uses to cut personalized lenses for each patient.
Click HERE to download a PDF detailing how Shamir Autograph II lenses are created.
Enhance Your Optical’s Products
Your patients know they can get standard eyeglasses made anywhere, so if you can give them lenses that are created to accommodate individual variations like slight astigmatism in one part of one eye (which is different than just prescribing lenses for astigmatism) or varying prescriptions across one eye’s field of vision, they are more likely to return to your optical. The lenses are available in both single and multifocal varieties. It allows for the best possible vision due to digital processing thataccommodates parameters that conventional surfaced lenses cannot. Our personalized lens patients rave about their improved vision, making such comments as: “it is like the difference between a 60-watt light bulb and a 100-watt light bulb.”Depending on the Rx, frame and skill of the optician you can truly customize a lens product for the particular patient and their eyewear.
Emphasize Benefits to Explain Added Cost
Customized lenses, which command premium pricing, require effective presentation of the lens benefits. Patients are cost conscious, especially in today’s economic climate, so don’t be surprised if many are skeptical of paying for lenses that often are nearly twice as much as they would pay for standard lenses. Like all potential sales in the optical, don’t prejudge a patient’s ability to buy. Your goal, and that of the doctor who prescribed corrective lenses, is to give the patient the best possible vision. With that in mind, have the doctor begin the personalized lenses conversation in the exam room:
Doctor: “Before we wrap up today, Mrs. Johnson, I wanted to tell you about an exciting new service in our optical. The new prescription I gave you today can be individualized especially for you, providing you with a custom visual experience.”
Patient: “What do you mean?”
Doctor: “Standard eyeglasses correct vision in a way that it is no different for any patient who has the same prescription. In our optical we have personalized lens technology that enables us to give you a pair of eyeglasses made only for you. For example, I noticed that you tend to move your head more than your eyes when talking. Old fashioned conventional eyeglasses wouldn’t be able toaccommodate that tendency.The personalized lenses we create measure your head movements so your vision is enhanced. Another thing these high-technology lenses do is accommodate slight visual variations within each eye. Most people don’t realize that their vision across one eye contains variations. For example, you may even be slightly astigmatic in one portion of one eye. A standard pair of eyeglasses would only be able to account for astigmatism across an entire eye. You also may not have the same prescription across an entire eye. You won’t believe this, butonly one portion of your left eye may be best served by your old prescription!”
Patient: “Oh, that’s interesting. I’ve never heard of any of this before.”
Doctor: “Our personalized lens technology provides the best vision possible. For that reason, I am prescribing personalized lenses for you today. Our optician Margaret whom I will introduce you to in a moment will tell you more about this technology, including how our personalized lens system measures your vision and how soon we can get a new pair of eyeglasses made for you with the latest and best technology.”
Use Patient Testimonials
The first step to selling personalized lens technology is having the doctor prescribe the lenses in the exam room and the optician explain and make the sale in the dispensary. But that’s only the beginning of the efforts necessary to make this a profitable part of your practice. Create a section on your practice’s web site devoted to the personalized lens system you purchase, including pictures of the technology, a definition of what personalized lenses are (remember, most consumers still have no idea what these lenses are) and patient testimonials. Most patients will be amazed by the improvement of their vision with personalized eyeglasses, so make the most of their wowed reaction.
Don’t just direct them to give a testimonial on your web site or on Yelp. Instead, be proactive and when a patient picks up her personalized eyeglasses and is amazed by them have an optician or another staffer quickly (no more than five minutes) interview them on what they like so much about the eyeglasses and why and how they are better than their old eyeglasses, along with anything else about the personalized lens experience they would like to share. If the patient is open to it, you can videotape this exchange and post the interview on your web site, Facebook, Yelp page and any other online pages you maintain.
Market to Address Cost Concerns
Most patients do not know that most of the major managed care vision plans cover personalized lens products. In any information you provide about the lenses–online or in person–be sure to mention that your opticians will help them use their vision benefit to attain this latest in vision improvement technology. On your practice’s web site, Facebook page and other online pages, offer special deals to get the personalized lens ball rolling. For example, consider offering a bundled package with a selection of low-cost frames.
You can take care of two tasks at the same time then–giving patients a lower-cost way of attaining personalized lenses and moving clearance frames you had on sale anyway. You could also try time-limited offers that target your practice’s highest-spending patients. For instance, you could tie a personalized lens special to a trunk show event in which your highest-spending tier of patients is invited to. These are your highest spenders, so the deal would not have to be too grand–maybe a slight discount on select sunwear with personalized lenses. Or maybe a slight discount on the personalized lenses with the purchase of a luxury frame above a certain price point.
However you do it, make a concerted effort not just to make this latest and greatest lens technology available to your patients, but to educate and market its ability to enhance your patients’ vision–and by extension, their quality of life.
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