Use technology to improve your contact lens practice

February 15, 2009
Kathy McNelis, COA, NCLC, ABOC

Contact lens practices are probably feeling the effects of more and more patients simply taking their prescriptions and buying their lenses on the Internet. But, if contact lens fitting is a valuable service that you offer and you want to improve your productivity and profitability, then you might want to make a few changes. Using the Internet to send email updates to patients, ordering supplies online, and giving patients the option to purchase on your Web store will make a big difference in your practice.

Key Points

Every modern ophthalmologist uses the Internet routinely to do research, medical billing, and communicate with peers and patients. The Internet offers a variety of products to improve your contact lens practice and help retain patients and bring in new referrals.

More people are now spending an increased amount of their shopping and purchasing decision time on the Internet. Consider this: as of Jan. 19 of this year, a simple online Google search for contact lenses generates 729,000 results and more than 700,000 for contact lenses without a prescription. Isn't it interesting that people are trying to get contact lenses without a prescription? Looking at Google, you also will see that almost twice as many inquiries are for information like contacts for astigmatism and dry eyes and colored contacts.

If you have an ongoing contact lens practice, you are probably feeling the effects of more patients simply taking their prescriptions and buying their lenses online. In many offices it may seem just as simple to charge the fitting fees and give the prescription, rather than have to deal with the problems of taking orders, ordering, and delivering lenses.

But if you believe that contact lens fitting is a valuable service that you offer and you want to improve your productivity and profitability, then you might want to make a few changes.

Educating your entire staff

The FDA has an information site on contact lenses, and you can reproduce it for your office and your patients. It explains that contact lens sales are regulated by the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission, and it details what is required for a valid contact lens prescription. It is important that our offices are prepared to discuss these topics with patients so that we can guide them to the best care instead of the cheapest source. Why are the patients looking for contact lenses without prescriptions? Maybe they are trying to avoid coming in for check-ups because they just don't get anything out of them. This is a question to discuss with the whole staff so a plan of action can be formed that utilizes training and patient education. Take some time to make sure that the staff are all satisfied contact lens wearers, too.

Communication

It is quite simple to use Microsoft Outlook or your optical software to send newsletters and other communications to your patients. If patients provide you with their e-mail address, they are inviting you to communicate with them. Hopefully your office has a Web site. This is a great place to tell your patients about new contact lens products and give them news about you, your office, and your staff. If you send your technicians to a seminar, let your patients know by posting the new information on your Web site. You could include letters from happy contact lens patients as well as a link to your vendors to expand the information available. Just speak with your sales representative and they will help you.

Improving productivity

It likely is time to look at the way that contact lens orders are handled in your office.

Is it simple for the person taking the order to discuss fees and collect the money? Will patients receive their lenses on a timely basis? Are patients' contact lens prescriptions easily accessible? Or is it in patients' medical records? Could anyone obtain the prescription or does it take a technician 10 minutes to go through the chart to find it?

A simple computer database could solve that. After each contact lens fitting or follow-up visit simply enter the:

You can purchase software that is specific for this or you already may have a program that has this feature; if not, most college students can produce something like this for you. Then everyone who participates in the contact lens care must update the patients' records at each visit. If the contact lens information is accessible, the transaction will be easy for anyone in the office to handle. Patients also will appreciate the prompt, courteous service.

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