By ROB Editors
Vision therapy (VT) can change the lives of patients, helping young people excel in school and beyond. It also can bring significant additional revenues into a practice.
However, these treatments usually require out-of-pocket payment from the patient. Here is a story one OD recently shared with ROB of how she grew her $800,000 per year VT practice, along with our tips on using patient financing via the CareCredit credit card to bring these vital treatments within reach for more families.
A Huge Opportunity to Help Patients
Ann W. Voss, Therapeutic Optometrist, FCOVD, Diplomate, ABO, started her career with a passion for vision therapy, after receiving VT herself as child and having a special needs brother who required extra services. Dr. Voss began offering vision therapy in the office she joined as an associate after graduating from University of Houston College of Optometry in 1989. She hired a part-time therapist, invested about $3,000 in start-up equipment and branded the therapy clinic as the Vision Learning Center (VLC). By 1998, Dr. Voss was ready to establish her own primary care practice and founded Bellaire Family Eye Care and brought the VLC with her.
Even back then, demand for VT services was so strong that growth of this specialty was swift. “The total space we initially leased was about 2,700 square feet, of which 300 square feet was for the VLC. Revenues for VT were $40,000 that first year with a part-time therapist and grew to $90,000 with two part-time therapists within two years. Equipment purchased early included basic hand-held equipment like vectograms and flippers, and I purchased the first visagraph, an eye movement recording device. Total budget with equipment and furnishings of the office space back then was $15,000-$20,000. Through the years we have added every new technology possible to provide premium services,” Dr. Voss shares.
Over the years, the VLC outgrew the 300 square feet and moved to its own suite in the building, expanding first to 1,500 square feet and then a few years later to 3,000 square feet. Revenues have grown steadily from $40,000 in 1999 to over $800,000 per year in therapy alone. The growth was fueled by adding a new graduate in 2008, Marcia Moore, OD, (now a partner) who brought her own passion and enthusiasm for VT to the practice.
Build Necessary Staff to Serve Patients
“Revenues can only grow if you’re offering quality services from qualified staff. This is the greatest challenge in a VT practice, but one of the most rewarding as well. Begin with a passionate, committed therapist that you train and work alongside for a while, and then gradually add staff and create training modules for the new team,” says Dr. Voss. “Eventually, the volume will be enough for the current therapists to train the new therapists. Continued training and education for the staff is a must. We devote every Wednesday morning to discussing the therapy plans of our patients and educating the team on new procedures and approaches to therapy. We work as a team, and the positive energy overflows into the therapy rooms.”
Dr. Voss’s practice currently has five certified vision therapists through the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) and three developing therapists. In addition, the practice has two administrative staff members who enroll patients into VT, make appointments, and are liaisons between the doctors, therapists and families.
Provide Payment Options & Patient Financing Can Make Your VT Services Accessible to Patients
“We have multiple programs to meet patients’ needs, including office-based, one-on-one therapy and home-therapy options. Our core program is 30 sessions of in-office therapy supplemented with at-home therapy using a kit with instructions that we provide. However, patients can opt for as few as six sessions. Fees are paid upfront for a reduced cost or paid per session,” Dr. Voss emphasizes. “As an out-of-network clinic we want to offer as many options as possible to make it possible for all patients to benefit from our services and treatments.”
Some practices go even further and take the approach of also offering patient financing via the CareCredit credit card to make VT a reality for more patients. Patient financing allows the practice to receive payment in full at the time the service is provided, but gives patients, who are approved for the card, the option to spread payments out over time. This creates a win-win in which practices get paid without delay and patients are given the leeway to space out payments.
Parents will be excited to learn they have this option. It may make the difference between a child getting the care they need to perform to their potential in school and having to make do on their own. The conversation between staff and parents can go something like this:
“Sharon, Bobby could benefit from vision therapy, as you discussed with the doctor during Bobby’s exam. I think there’s a lot we could do through in-office and at-home exercises to strengthen Bobby’s visual performance. You expressed concern about the cost of these treatments with the doctor. We feel it’s important for our patients to receive all of the treatments and products our doctors prescribe, so one of the options we offer for payment is to use the CareCredit credit card to pay for services and purchases. We can help you right now to complete the application process. If you are approved, you will be able to space out payments for Bobby’s vision therapy, rather than paying for it all at once. How does that sound?”
Many parents will breath a big sigh of relief knowing they now have a manageable way to ensure their child receives the academic performance-enhancing treatments the doctor has prescribed. Patients are able to get what they need and the practice is able to fully benefit from the significant growth and profitability opportunity that a VT practice provides.