By Alexandra Gelt, OD,
and Bryan Heitmeyer, OD
Nov. 10, 2021
Specialty contact lenses can change a patient’s life, sharpening vision for those who have struggled to attain satisfactory eyesight. In the process, these lenses can create a huge practice-builder, enabling you to add patients and grow revenues. To make the most of this opportunity, you need to educate patients about the value of specialty contact lenses.
Tap a Growth Opportunity
We are seeing strong growth in the specialty lens portion of our practice as products improve and patient awareness grows. Specialty contacts represent about 8 percent of our total practice revenue. That translates into $320,000 annually generated by prescribing and selling specialty contact lenses.
We have a large presbyopic population, so the largest share of specialty lens fits comes from soft multifocals, followed by scleral lenses, then Ortho-K. The greatest growth is definitely in soft multifocals. The increasing presbyopic population, coupled with many new product offerings in the daily disposable multifocals category, is driving that growth.
Address Additional Cost of Specialty CLs Upfront
Generally speaking, specialty lenses take more chair time, resulting in an increase in the associated fitting fees. Material cost differences can vary depending on the product fit and rebates that may be offered. A daily disposable multifocal versus and single-vision daily disposable is on average about 30 percent more expensive for the patient.
We choose to proactively address the higher costs with patients, rather than waiting for them to ask and then be unpleasantly surprised.
We find that being proactive about having this conversation with patients is less wasteful of both our time and the patient’s. Fees are communicated at the time of check-in verbally and with a detailed sheet that the discloses the fee structure and what is included in the fee. If we know in advance what the patient is coming to see us for, we verbally review the fees at the time of scheduling.
Our staff is trained to present fees in advance, when possible, so we can focus in the exam room on what we do best, which is patient care. We regularly have team and department meetings to review and train staff on how to discuss fees, and the value of our services, with patients.
Educate Patient When Prescribing Why Special CLs Are Best for Them
In the exam room, we focus on patient education. When prescribing specialty lenses, we explain to patients why these lenses are better for them than traditional soft contact lenses.
For example, we might say to a patient: “While you are noticing a decline in vision at near with your soft contact lenses, the good news is we have new options available to minimize your use of reading glasses while wearing your contacts. Patients find they love the clear and comfortable vision these lenses provide, and I think you are the perfect candidate for them. I can fit you in these new lenses today, does that sound like a good plan to you?”
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Or we might say: “One of the things you mentioned today is how difficult it has become to read while wearing your contact lenses. Many of my patients love the comfort and clear distance/near vision a new daily disposable multifocal contact lens offers. I think you would be a great candidate and we can get you fit today. Does that sound like a good plan to you?”
Explain Why They’re Worth the Added Cost
It’s not unusual for patients to express concern at the added cost of specialty contacts. Here is what we might say to a patient about the added expense: “I understand this is more expensive than what you have traditionally spent. These lenses do take a bit more time to fit, and it is likely you will have one or two more visits in addition to today. The added cost will cover our extra time together, so we can ensure things are working the way you need them to for the next year before you are due to see us again. Does that make sense?”
Optimize Materials from Vendor Partners to Educate Patients in Advance of their Visit
Our patients often come to us primed to be told about specialty contact lenses, thanks to our relationships with contact lens vendors.
For example, we have nice marketing pieces in the exam lanes that call attention to multifocal contacts from CooperVision and CooperVision Specialty EyeCare. They are 8.5” x 11” freestanding marketing pieces that spur patients to inquire about the lenses.
In addition to these in-office displays, we have information on our website about the specialty lenses we offer.
Good Experiences in Your Office that Generate New Patients
I frequently get word-of-mouth referrals from patients I recently fit in specialty lenses. Being able to see in a way they never could before comes with a wow factor that gets them talking about their experience in our office. Before long, their friends and family are our patients, too.