Add a niche product, get creative with marketing, and collaborate with local businesses to bounce back
With recent reductions in reimbursement for vision plans, many eye care providers have considered abandoning vision plans altogether. Is it wise? Should we do it quickly? Or should DOs proceed slowly and strategically?
Some eye care providers don’t believe their practices can survive without vision plans, although others say it’s the best practice decision they’ve ever made. Every practice is different: Some eye care providers immediately abandoned their plans, while others are uncomfortable making cold turkey. When abandoning a vision plan, the main concern of eye care providers is losing the income that these vision plans provide. Change can be difficult and frightening. It’s easier to continue to accept vision plans and comply with lower reimbursement. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, consider taking small steps.
To wean off vision plans, DOs need to make changes in their practices by replacing previous income with new income. They cannot go on with their business as usual and expect a different outcome. Before abandoning a plan, DOs should generate a report from their practice management system to understand how much revenue each plan brings to the practice. Compare the revenue generated by each vision plan and determine which one is the least profitable. Drop this one first.
Practices with multiple vision plans with similar income should assess which offers the worst customer service, the most challenges, confusing refunds, or the most lab remakes. Once the firms have done their due diligence, it’s time to strategically replace lost revenue by following the tips below.
1.ADD A NICHE PRODUCT, SERVICE OR SPECIALTY
Niche specialties include dry eye treatment, sports vision therapy, myopia management, and eyewear styling sessions. Firms can, for example, offer bespoke luxury glasses (to accompany hair styling services); become a destination for safety sports eyewear; and carry a wide selection of protective eyewear for the job.
Keep in mind that just adding, say, a robust safety eyewear inventory won’t necessarily increase revenue – the practices must also attract a patient base for the product. For example, contact a nearby manufacturing company and talk to the person responsible for ensuring that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards are met in their workplace. Collaborate by providing an easy way for them to offer US OSHA approved products
Safety glasses conforming to the National Standards Institute to their workers. It’s a win-win initiative: Practices can help the business stay compliant and protect employees’ eyes while replacing lost revenue from their vision plan. Another idea: Offer styling sessions to patients with outside prescriptions. ODs can only perform a limited number of eye exams each day, but optical staff can schedule styling sessions for patients during optical downtime.
The goal is to create a great customer experience so that patients can personalize their glasses and purchase multiple pairs. Patients are already here, encourage them to order everything they will need for healthy eyesight all year round, including these prescription polarized sunglasses. During these sessions, treat yourself to distinctive luxury eyewear. Practices can’t sell what they don’t have on display, so they should find independent executive collections that match their patient demographics. Become the district’s destination for exceptional eyewear by offering frames from independent companies and combining them with personalized lenses.
Custom lenses include Transitions Signature Gen 8 style colors and mirrors and Opticote solid and gradient tints with mirror options.
These are great choices for helping patients pair their frame style with the color style and / or mirror of their choice. Such upgrades can also help differentiate a practice from its competitors.
2.BECOME CREATIVE WITH YOUR MARKETING MESSAGE
In my experience, digital and internal marketing attracts more self-paid patients. Internal marketing can include telephone on-hold messages, voice messages, reminder card messages, SMS notifications, appointment reminders, optical signage, and point-of-sale material. The language of these messages must be addressed and attract the type of patients sought by the practice.
Display luxury eyewear or an advertising niche service so patients know what the practice has to offer. The same goes for digital marketing messages, essential to attracting ideal patients, from the firm’s website and social media. Optimize the website and invest in search engine optimization for words like unique glasses and your specialist services like myopia control or dry eye. Firms must ensure that their websites are recent and up to date, with an optimized back end.
Collaborate with other local professionals such as dentists, pediatricians, ophthalmologists and other eye care professionals with specialties that do not have an optical service. For example, we collaborated with an ophthalmologist who targeted the Hispanic Latino community and performed only pterygium surgery. We referred all of our pterygium patients to his office, and he referred all of his postoperative patients to us for glasses.
Also collaborate with other local businesses, such as hairdressers, spas and nail salons. Their clientele wants to look fabulous in their glasses and sunglasses. Start a referral program with them or offer special offers to their employees every time they refer a client to the practice. DOs need to remember that they are slowly replacing lost income from vision plans. So, be creative. Look for local organizations, such as sports teams and organizations or unions that require safety glasses. These groups can help paying individuals.
Firms could work with their local chamber of commerce, for example, to offer a special discount to its members. For employees of small businesses who cannot provide a vision plan (i.e. cash clients), ODs may offer a special discount to visit their practices.
Vision plans have changed the way ODs practice optometry. It is important to remain proactive and devise a strategy to compensate for the loss of income resulting from these abandoned plans.
When you abandon a vision plan, contact patient members by mail, email, or both. Let them know that you are no longer a supplier and include a special offer. They can decide to come back as private patients and request services outside the network. They will appreciate your listening.