Contact Lens Hub

Contact Lens Hub

If you have any questions you wish to have answered, please submit your questions here.

Jim Papas suggested in the first webinar that in the future optometrists will need to offer ‘competitive prices’ and recommends a 10-15% margin on contact lens sales. Can we expect to operate on these margins long-term?
There is no doubt the patient today is more price conscious and the convenience of online retailing has assisted this. With lenses available at a lower price online, and this situation likely to continue, practitioners need to find ways of positively interacting with patients in relation to their retail choices. Offering a price that is more competitive with online retailers may lead to fewer patients purchasing online if those patients are making decisions based purely on price. A competitive price is only part of the story though – patients want convenience and we need to provide this as part of our service. The competitive price needs to be offset by fitting contact lenses to more patients, providing greater eye care experiences and meeting eye care needs. Remember, the happy and loyal long-term patient is the one who sees well and feels you are taking care of them!

What has caused pricing concerns and what can be done? 
Optometrists Association Australia recognises members’ concerns in relation to the cost differences present in the optical sector and the challenges they present. Cost differences are a result of the expansion of global online retailing. While allowing patients greater access to products from overseas based retailers, these online models can lead to price differences. Our sector is not alone here. Policy makers generally support these business models as they are considered to be increasing competition and beneficial for consumers.

In recognition of the changing marketplace Johnson & Johnson Vision Care has supported the webinar series to help better equip the Optometrist. In the following webinars in the series, there will be a focus on strategies to maximise contact lens practice profitability. With no quick fix for online retailing concerns, members are encouraged to adopt strategies that meet the changing needs of patients.

Optometrists Association encourages members to charge appropriate fees for the services they deliver, to provide experiences that exceed patient expectations and engender patient loyalty, and to continue to communicate to every patient and the community the value of the quality services provided by optometrists as highly skilled eye-care practitioners.

Is it difficult for a small optometry practice to have an online presence?
Not at all. While setting up a website and offering contacts online may be new for many practitioners, the Association can get you started by providing advice on the different options available, the regulatory requirements and how to offer online convenience for your patients. We can also suggest website designers who can provide affordable website packages for Association members through our Advantage program.

Do private label contact lenses combat people buying online?
Private label lenses are one of many strategies contact lens practitioners use to meet the challenges of today’s internet savvy patient. Private label contact lenses are packaged solely for use by your practice. Private labels may enhance patient loyalty and may give your practice a higher profile and help position you as a specialist contact lens practitioner. Today however, more patients are aware of the concept of ‘private labels’ so this strategy may not be as successful as it once was as well as having the potential to mislead the patient. You need to weigh the benefit and risks of the use of private labels and combine a number of techniques to encourage patients to purchase contact lenses from you after the eye health consultation.

Are there any changes required to laws to ensure best patient care in relation to online sales?
The Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) is the federal authority which regulates the import and supply of medical devices, such as contact lenses, either through traditional bricks and mortar retailers or when supplied online.

In an ideal world, all contact lenses sold online would be regulated to protect patients. However, when an online retailer is based overseas, the TGA has no jurisdiction. Herein lies the problem. Different jurisdictions are still looking at these issues.

The main concern for optometrists is that patients who order online for price and convenience reasons may be lost to follow-up care and be unaware of the risks of wearing lenses. Optometrists should focus on offering competitive prices and improved convenience, as well as educating patients on the benefits of regular eye care and the risks that may present when purchasing contact lenses online.

State and Territory governments regulate the sale of contact lenses. Currently, legislation in Tasmania and South Australia makes a valid prescription mandatory before any contact lenses are supplied. This includes novelty or plano lenses. As part of its advocacy role, the Association continues to recommend all States and Territories prohibit the supply of contact lenses without a valid prescription. 

Is it considered a refit going from one spherical lens type to another?
If the decision to change a patient into a different spherical lens, or any other lens design or modality is clinically indicated, then this is considered a refit.  Optometrists should charge appropriately for their time and clinical expertise. For example, a patient may require a refit into a silicone hydrogel lens, or from monthly disposable lens to daily lens.

Is it an issue when sending contact lenses directly to the patient that they can't use HICAPS to make the health fund claim?
The contact lens consumer today appreciates convenience. One of the ways optometrists can help people in their busy lives is to provide postage services for their contact lenses. Many private health funds now provide online claiming services for optical items, which adds to the convenience that patients enjoy. 

Is it still a perception amongst patients that they are not suitable for contact lenses if it is not mentioned by their optometrists?
Despite contact lens awareness campaigns many patients rely on their optometrist to inform them of their options when it comes to contact lenses. In the absence of contact lenses being mentioned as one of these options, patients may assume they are not suitable candidates for lens wear. The solution to this is communication. A simple discussion on contact lenses, the different options available, even placing trial lenses in eyes, will result in a significant increase to a practice's contact lens base and have the additional benefit of building patient loyalty.

I find it difficult to keep charging for my time, particularly with multifocal contact lenses, if ultimately, after several different trials of lenses, they still don't work.
Multifocal contact lens fitting is one area where communication is vital. Patients need to be informed that perseverance is essential, there are many options to correct their visual needs and a team based approach is the key to success. When patients are aware of these things, and the need for customised solutions, they are more likely to understand the need for your clinical expertise.  This is a key example of the importance of communication in contact lens consulting.

If you have any questions you wish to have answered, please submit your questions here.

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