Why do so many patients choose to purchase their contact lenses from a source other than their eye doctor? The vast majority of practices we come across say that their patients cite the same reasons – contacts available online are priced below competitors AND frankly, it’s the most convenient option. It’s a conundrum that I’ve been dedicated to solving for several years. If you are one of the many ECPs that are frustrated by the commoditization of contact lenses and selling only about half of the contact lenses you prescribe, I have good news. Leading your team toward improved patient communication is the secret to successfully keeping that revenue in-office. With proper implementation and careful monitoring, the patient, the staff and the practice all benefit from this process improvement.
I’VE BEEN THERE
In the not too distant past, my own contact lens practice was among those that were underperforming in contact lens sales. I realized that annual supplies and daily contact lenses were keys to profitability, and that we were not paying enough attention to those metrics. When we first began tracking, and attempted to increase our percentage of annual supplies and percentage of daily contact lenses, our success was limited and it became apparent that our processes needed an overhaul. Each month, we shared our performance with the team each month and made several process changes that eventually resulted in a steady increase in annual supply sales from 40% to nearly 90%, while our percentage of daily contacts grew from 25% to nearly 70%. This two year project resulted in an annual revenue increase of approximately $200,000 in my practice. I then shared my process changes with several close friends. The positive results were so reliable and consistent that I eventually developed a tool I could share. It turned out that many ECPs needed help implementing effective processes around contact lenses, so I branched out into consulting as well.
THE NECESSARY NUTS AND BOLTS
To start seeing results like those I experienced in my own practice, a process needs to be in place that includes a pricing strategy, a sales strategy and sales tools. We stress the importance of monitoring contact lens metrics at least monthly. We recommend EDGEPro to our clients because the Clinic Overview/Contacts section does a great job of providing present and historical data on Year Supply % and % Daily contacts at the click of a mouse button. Successful practices follow these metrics incrementally and share them with their team. This is where the doctors’ leadership and the whole team’s accountability comes in. One pearl I’ve discovered when sharing data with staff is to emphasize the benefits the patients receive (financial and health) via the purchase of annual supplies and daily lenses rather than the increase in practice profit. Staff members respond better to providing good customer service and helping their patients than to increasing profits. I’m also a proponent of team-oriented efforts where success results in a lunch, party or bonus for everyone.
Another important way to increase contact lens profitability is to decrease your cost of goods. It’s really critical to track data for Top Manufacturers, Top Brand Families, or Top Styles. In our consulting business, we often work with practices that split their contact lens business among three or four different manufacturers. This reduces the practice’s negotiating power and limits their ability to take advantage of price discounts for volume and growth. Once a strategy is chosen, metrics data can incrementally chart progress toward the goal of capitalizing on brand loyalty.
MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS ON BOARD
Another way we use metrics is to analyze performance by individual providers. It’s best to look for insights into performance data, doctor-by-doctor. This recently helped one of our consulting clients to discover that their associate doctor had been fitting a substantial number of patients in a brand the practice had been moving away from. Having individual metrics in their analytics dashboards made it simple for the partners to find this problem and address it quickly.
Increasing annual lens supply sales and daily contact sales is not just about profit. It also helps your patients. Daily lenses are healthier and more convenient to wear. Annual supply purchases save patients significant money compared to purchasing 6 months at a time. Eliminating the need for further shopping and sending an annual supply to their house for free improves convenience and allows them to check contact lenses off their busy todo list for a year. Your staff benefits because they feel better about the excellent service they’re providing your patients, and can spend less time with contact lens re-orders and faxes from online retailers.
The first step in improving your annual supply sales and daily contact lens percentage is to become more aware of how your practice is performing in these areas. Pay attention to these metrics on a regular basis and use them to evaluate progress and assess the effectiveness of process improvements. Combine this with a commitment to purchase the bulk of your contact lenses from no more than two manufacturers. Once you achieve significant results, it’s important to continue to use metrics regularly to monitor the important aspects of your contact lens business. Following this method, you are sure to improve your contact lens profitability while simultaneously helping both your patients and your staff.
Dr. Ryan Gustus is a partner at Eyecare Associates of Blufton in Indiana, and the CEO of LensQuote.com.