Medical Model

The Practice Sub-Specialty that Added $100,000+ Annually to My Practice

By Kimberly K. Friedman, OD, FAAO

Oct. 6, 2021

As optometrists we are concerned with the health of our patients, but also the health of our business. As traditional refractive sources of income have switched to alternate channels, we need to look at the medical aspects of our practice and expand our offerings whenever possible.

One of the areas where I have been able to expand is nutraceuticals. This sub-specialty is making a huge positive impact on my patients and on practice profitability.

I got started in nutraceuticals by paying attention to my own health. As someone who has Sjogren’s syndrome, I needed to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet, and part of that involved omega-3 fatty acids and taking folic acid supplements to counteract the effects of the Methotrexate injections. As I learned more about nutrition and its effect at the ocular surface and retina, I began to realize this had the potential to be a sub-specialty within my practice.

Step 1: Learn About the Companies Selling Nutraceutical Supplements
I started by learning about the different nutritional companies that service the needs of eyecare providers. I found that not all companies are the same and not all products are the same. I attended webinars, did research and found a company, PRN, that I felt comfortable partnering with in terms of the quality of the products it would provide to my patients.

In addition to the good it would do my patients, I chose PRN because it allows you to retain 50 percent of everything you sell in-office and 20 percent on home deliveries for orders that result from prescriptions you write. This profit-sharing arrangement has resulted in the generation of at least $100,000 annually in my practice from the sale of nutraceuticals. PRN was such a hit for my practice that I have since taken a role in the management of the company, and am now its vice-president.

Editor’s Note: There are other ocular nutraceutical options to choose from. Other popular brands include PreserVision and  MacuHealth

Step 2: Teach Patients About the Benefits of Nutraceuticals
I needed to find a way to quickly and efficiently convey the benefits of nutrition and nutritional supplements to my patients without being perceived as a used car salesman or getting behind in my patient care schedule because I got roped into long nutrition conversations. It took a while to get the verbiage to the point where I was confident and comfortable with how I worded my discussions with patients. I found it was critically important to address a few things:

  • Why the product is necessary for the patient
  • How it works
  • How to get it
  • Why the specific nutraceutical I am prescribing is different from what the patient would get on Amazon or at the local drugstore.

Over time I have been able to get that verbiage down to about one minute.

Step 3: Continue to Learn Yourself About the Benefits of Nutraceuticals
The field of nutrition is ever-evolving. It is much more than just an AREDS 2 formula for intermediate to late-stage macular degeneration. There are nutrition formulas that are appropriate for early-stage macular degeneration, for dry eye disease, for chronic recurrent episcleritis, for recurrent hordeolum and blepharitis, as well as diabetes and other retinal conditions.

Nutrition and and ocular health are intricately linked, and we learn more about the intricacies of bioavailability and absorption of different nutrients everyday. In fact, there was a large-scale AREDS follow-up study published in March of 2021 explaining the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B’s, in addition to AREDS 2 supplements for our macular degeneration patients.

This news that omega 3 and vitamin B supplements play such an intricate role in macular health goes far beyond the typical generics of Areds 2 formulas that are found at the drugstore shelf. Reputable nutrition companies that serve the ocular space often have webinars and continuing education courses that are readily available for those who have an interest in nutrition.

Step 4: Choose Your Nutraceutical Provider Carefully
Partner with a company that understands that you should be compensated fairly for your time and expertise in discussing nutrition with your patients. Just as you receive a contact lens fitting fee for your professional time and expertise, you should receive compensation for your time and expertise in nutritional counseling.

The nutrition sub-specialty in my office has been extremely profitable, but more than that, I have the professional satisfaction of knowing I am assisting my patients beyond just their ocular health. If the omega 3 form, dose and ratio I use happens to also carry with it a 90 percent reduced risk of sudden cardiac arrest, how is that not a win, win, win?

Kimberly K. Friedman, OD, FAAO, is the owner of Moorestown Eye Associates in Moorestown, N.J. To contact her: kkfod@comcast.net

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