Online eyeglass buys: A potential threat to dispensing ophthalmologists

June 15, 2009

The emerging trend toward the purchase of eyeglasses online is a threat for dispensaries. Even if the trend were to take hold, not everyone will choose to purchase eyeglasses online. Plan how your practice will react.

Key Points

In this column, I'd like to talk about threats, and one threat in particular. That threat is an emerging trend toward the purchase of eyeglasses online. Perhaps fueled by the recession, the level of interest seems to have grown over the past few months.

How big is the threat?

Some food for thought

Before reacting to this threat, consider a few things:

Decide how your practice will react

Patients are instructed by Internet retailers to ask for their PD, bifocal height measurement, and frame information. By asking for this information, patients alert a practice of their intent. Decide if your practice will release this information and/or if it will charge to do so. Next, decide how you will react if a patient brings in a pair of eyeglasses he or she purchased online and complains. What will you do if the prescription has not been filled correctly or if the eyeglasses are flawed in some way?

One way administrators are reacting is by asking patients they suspect of e-tailing to sign a statement that the practice will not be responsible for eyeglasses purchased elsewhere. The patient releases the practice from all liability to obtain the measurements. Because patients have become used to the notion that their ophthalmologist will remake eyeglasses at no charge, it is important that they know that you will be responsible only for the prescription itself, not the craftsmanship or materials used to fill it. This also is an opportunity to educate patients about differences in the quality of eyeglass lenses, lens treatment, and the quality of craftsmanship used to make them.

Arthur De Gennaro is president of Arthur De Gennaro & Associates LLC, an ophthalmic practice management firm that specializes in optical dispensary issues. De Gennaro is the author of The Dispensing Ophthalmologist. He can be reached at 803/359-7887, arthur@adegennaro.com
, or through the company's Web site, http://www.adegennaro.com/.

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