The American buying experience has evolved over the last several decades, and it is time optometry practices catch up. Fortunately, optometry patients are used to having purchasing options presented to them as packaged prices. Much in the same way that cable providers market basic, extended, and premium packages, or car washes offer different options separated by specialty services, such as waxing and undercoating, I’ve worked to structure my optical this way. All of this starts with educating patients in the exam room and ultimately works to keep my practice independent.
During the exam, I listen to the patient’s chief optical complaints – light sensitivity, tired eyes on the computer, or sun glare – and I use the exam to further customize my recommendations. From there, the hand-off to the optician is an extremely important step, as they work to further explain my prescription and recommendations. In my office, we use a paging system. At the end of the exam, the optician is buzzed to come into the exam room. While the patient is in the chair and listening, I explain to the optician what I prescribed for the patient (and why).
Together, the optician and patient walk out to the optical to select frames and review the prescribed lens choices. This system has worked very well in my office; bringing the optician into the room gives the patient the feeling of “concierge” service that matches the ambiance of our boutique-style optical. This allows me to easily move on to the next patient, not get caught up in the optical answering random questions, and removes the “selling” aspect of picking out the glasses. My process allows the patient to confidently have a dialogue with the optician regarding their specific lens prescription. Patient education and empowerment is important to me and sets our practice apart from the competition.
Packaging Lenses is the Answer
The consumer shopping experience is moving toward a value proposition experience, meaning, “What am I getting, and why is this beneficial to me?” If the consumer can confidently answer that question, then the hard work is done.
Packaging lens options makes it very easy for the patient to see what is included in each base package and the final price (including insurance discounts). Also, offering curated packages can increase the revenue per patient. Packaging allows the retailer to easily offer accessories, dry eye products, supplements, and/or warranties to the patient all in one transaction for a set price. Packaging lens options allows the practice to offer more value to your high spenders and attract new high-dollar spenders.
We have three base packages structured in a tier model – good, better, best – and add-ons are available as needed to further customize the package based on the patient’s needs. The way we present options resembles our patients’ normal shopping experiences. What makes our experience unique is that if a patient is not ready to purchase their glasses that day, we can print an itemized quote and give it to them to take home. Many patients like to discuss with their spouse or mull over the options. We can capture roughly 10% to 15% of those patients returning to the practice, and they often opt to purchase one of the more expensive packages. Transparency is a big part of the patient buying experience in our practice.
Below are some examples of the packages we offer:
(Best) Trendsetter – Anti-fatigue, Trivex material, top-tier anti-reflective coating, $29.99 extended warranty enrollment fee, cleaning kit.
(Better) Premium – Traditional single vision, Trivex, good anti-reflective coating, and $29.99 extended warranty enrollment fee.
(Good) Basic – Traditional single vision, polycarbonate, and good anti-reflective coating.
(Best) Trendsetter –Top-tier PAL, top-tier anti-reflective coating, Trivex, $29.99 extended warranty enrollment fee, and cleaning kit.
(Better) Premium – Premium PAL, premium anti-reflective coating, Trivex, and $29.99 extended warranty enrollment fee.
(Good) Basic – Premium PAL, premium anti-reflective coating, and polycarbonate.
How We Do It
As an independent practice owner, I knew I needed to stay on top of my optical sales and provide the best service to my patients, while also boosting my own revenue. Part of this process was the creation of Paradeyem, a software system I built with my husband that allows me to be more efficient, improve sales, and cut costs.
Paradeyem is a web-based optical software that allows the office to verify patient benefits, pull copays, create packages, apply doctor attributes (specific add-ons or product recommendations based on treatment plan), and calculate patient charges. The software streamlines the process by taking the guesswork out of creating packages – via an administrative dashboard. It also helps the optician to correctly calculate charges for both insured (VSP, Superior, Davis, Spectera, and Eyemed) and cash-paying patients.
Increasing Revenue by Standing Out
We moved to a tier package model in 2019, and between 2019 and 2020, we focused on eliminating government insurance plans and opting out of required insurance labs. The transformation of the optical lens presentation and the modification of lab contracts allowed the revenue per patient to grow $132 (40%) from 2020 to 2021. We are on track to maintain that revenue per-patient in 2022, and we are hoping we can beat that number.
Offering these different packages sets our practice apart. Many independent ECPs still use the antiquated process of starting with a bare lens, adding on treatments, and calculating patients’ fees by hand (a very lengthy and taxing process). Packaging reduces the time spent discussing fees in the optical and allows more time for patients to shop the frame fashions. Lastly, we can provide an itemized professional quote to empower the patient during the buying process (something that online shopping allows for patients). All of this helps us stand out among competition – whether that’s corporate or online optometry – and remain an independent practice.
My practice has embraced technology, and it has made all the difference. We threw away pencils and calculators years ago, and we stopped asking patients what they want on their lenses. Instead, we make buying glasses a memorable experience.
Janelle Davison, OD, is an award-winning optometrist, the owner and CEO of Brilliant Eyes Vision Center in Smyrna, Georgia, and the owner and Clinical Director of Premier Dry Eye Spa & Cosmetic Eyecare. She is also the Chief Visionary Officer at Paradeyem Software, a web-based retail optical solution, and the cofounder of S.C.O.R.E., Inc., a non-profit organization that works to provide tools, skills, and guidance in education, careers, and life of young women of color interest in healthcare.