The ins and outs of dispensary management

April 15, 2013

How to outsource the optical dispensary without sacrificing profits or control

Take-home

For ophthalmologists and eye-care practices, the benefits of outsourcing the management of their optical dispensaries are many.

 

By Joseph Casorio and Kurt Behrle

For many eye-care practices, optical dispensaries can evolve into necessary, yet time-consuming micro-businesses. Several factors contribute to this, including staff training and supervision, inventory management, and lack of accountability.

The most prominent reason, however, may be something more basic. Many ophthalmologists and practice administrators see optical dispensaries as distractions to the more profitable and, of course, more important patient-care aspect of their practices. For them, patient care is their baby, whereas optical dispensaries can seem more like babysitting. One is a natural extension of their craft; the other is a nuisance. Let’s face it: ophthalmologists probably didn’t get into this field to micro-manage optical dispensaries.

Often, this secondary role translates into an optical dispensary that is perceived as a burden rather than a blessing and, as a result, whose operation is reactive rather than proactive. Optical dispensary demands and expectations are met but not exceeded and, hopefully, the operation continues to return reasonable profits while remaining mostly on autopilot. The optical dispensary becomes a matter of “leaving well enough alone.”

In this scenario, the status quo prevails chiefly for one reason: lack of a known viable alternative. Enter optical dispensary management and consulting services.

Minimal responsibility, maximum profit

On the topic of optical dispensaries, two of the most prevalent complaints eye-care practices and ophthalmologists have are:

  • The optical dispensary demands too many staff hours and resources to operate.
  • The optical dispensary probably isn’t making as much profit as it could.

Telling ophthalmologists that one of these two obstacles can be overcome usually perks up their ears. Telling them that both can be overcome usually brings the expectation of a pending pitch for snake oil. A “win-win” solution seems too good to be true.

But the answer isn’t a magic trick . . . it’s just common-sense economics. By eliciting help with optical dispensary management, ophthalmologists and eye-care practices can see increased profits from their dispensaries while having more time to focus on what they do best-namely, patient care.

For ophthalmologists and eye-care practices, the benefits of outsourcing the management of their optical dispensaries are many. To consider just a few:

  • Ownership and control of the optical dispensary remain with the ophthalmologist. The most common misconception about optical dispensary management is that eye-care practices lose full ownership or oversight of their dispensaries. This simply is not the case. Practices retain full ownership and, as a result, have the ultimate say in any key decision suggested by an optical dispensary management service.
  • Dispensary-specific expertise. Optical dispensary management services are specialists in one field and one field alone, and have the benefit of experience working with dozens of other dispensaries. The result is a level of education and efficiency that no eye-care practice alone could replicate.

Optical dispensary management services provide dispensary opticians and staff with training sessions to ensure clear understanding of proper procedures and any new computer software that the service may incorporate. Performance standards are established for each employee, and a regional manager will be consistently on-site to assure quality control. Regular meetings will be held to discuss new products and technologies as they pertain to lenses, coatings, and other niches, as well as to launch incentives programs that entice staff to meet specific sales goals.

The result is a well-organized and well-educated staff that help fully realize the dispensary’s client-servicing and profit-making potential.

  • Inventory management. Optical dispensary management services usually have access to a wide array of brand-name inventory. They purchase existing inventory while transitioning to new inventory targeted to an eye-care practice’s specific patient demographics. This includes an analysis of the practice’s market to understand fully competitive price structures and consumer preferences. Frame inventory is fully furnished and managed by the service-a wholly turnkey process.
  • Third-party insurance billing. Optical dispensary management services can process all optical claims on an eye-care practice’s behalf, relieving it from this time-consuming chore. Any claims that require additional follow-up will be reviewed by an optical dispensary management insurance coordination team who, through its work representing other dispensaries, has familiarity with all types of third-party insurance (including Medicare).
  • Internal marketing materials and initiatives. A worthwhile optical dispensary management service will have developed demographic-specific marketing programs designed to speak best to a practice’s patients and, in turn, boost sales. Collateral may include patient information/education brochures, corporate and professional courtesy programs, and new product launches.

Increased profitability

These attributes combine to total what is perhaps the most surprising benefit. The end result of a successful relationship with an optical dispensary management service is the same as with any outsourcing initiative: increased profitability. Eye-care practices are paying optical dispensary management services to find enough new efficiencies and cost savings that, when bundled together, not only cover the fee but raise optical dispensary profits. The right service will raise an eye-care practice’s dispensary profits to a point far exceeding its fee, leaving the practice with a higher dispensary bottom line even after the fee is factored in.

Over the past decade, the optical dispensary management and consulting industry has seen double-digit percentage growth and continues to trend upward. What was once an ultra-niche industry has grown considerably-not just because the need is there, but because the results are as well.

 

Joseph Casorio and Kurt Behrle are principals and co-founders of Vision Associates Inc., an optical dispensary management and consulting firm based in Warren Township, NJ. They work with eye-care practices across the United States on operations solutions that save time and grow profits, while allowing eye-care practices to maintain full ownership and control of their dispensaries. Readers may contact the authors at 800/346-7486 or www.visassoc.com.