Just 4 kids

August 15, 2004

The pediatric eyewear market may be a rewarding and lucrative off-shoot for ophthalmologists who have already chosen to include a dispensary in their practices. Robert S. Gold, MD, of Eye Physicians of Central Florida, Orlando, offers this advice about including pediatric and youth eyewear in a busy ophthalmologic practice.

Dr. Gold and his partners began investigating the pediatric eyewear market within 1 year of starting their practice.

"We even did surveys with our patients, asking whether they would be interested in an optical dispensary if we had one in our office," Dr. Gold commented. "Overwhelmingly, more than 75% of them said, 'Yes.' So we knew we would have a captive market."

Fittings are different with children, explained Dr. Gold, as is wear and tear on the glasses.

"Children break and scratch glasses all the time," he explained. "In our optical dispensary, we offer a 2-year warranty that is included in the price. Anytime they break or scratch the glasses, they can come in and get a new pair."

This warranty is not valid when the glasses are lost or the prescription changes, but it does provide a valuable benefit for parents, Dr. Gold said.

"If you offer this type of service with children, parents will listen and be more likely to look around and purchase frames," he said.

With specific sections of the dispensary dedicated to adults, both offices of Eye Physicians of Central Florida has set aside one entire wall for children.

"We keep a very high inventory of children's frames," Dr. Gold continued. "We offer very thin, ultralight lenses, and a lot of transition lenses. We offer good products, good alternatives, and up-to-the-minute technology."

Worth the challenge In dealing with the children's market, which runs the gamut from pediatrics to young adults, it is perhaps the uncooperative child that is hardest to deal with, Dr. Gold said. Good staffing is key to overcome this obstacle, which comes up with children more often than not.

"Let's say you've just examined a difficult child who has, for example, a significant refractive error and one crossed eye," he said. "The child has had to be held down in the exam chair by the parents or by your staff. Now you have to put that child in front of your optician, who may not have the patience or persistence to get the glasses properly fitted. This will not work.

"That kind of patient, believe it or not, is who we strive to get and keep," he said. "If we persist in fitting them properly, the child comes back with a big smile. And then everybody's smiling."

Currently, the pediatric business makes up 50% of their optical dispensing business. Out of the five doctors in the practice, two specialize in pediatrics, and therefore, these two handle this 50% of the business, he said.

"If that doesn't give you a reason to do it, nothing will," he said, noting that the pediatric eyewear venture has been successful.

"From day one, it's been nothing but fantastic," he said. "We try to make it personable. We're not high pressure. We're competitive in our pricing.