Everyone has “Skin in the Game”

Profiting from Contact Lenses in a Corporate Optometry Setting where you Don’t “Sell” Contact Lenses

CooperVision is committed to supporting optometrists in all modes of practice.  To that end, we’re excited to offer the first in a series of interviews with Dr. Maria Sampalis on advice to be successful in your corporate optometry practice.  Dr. Sampalis has over 12 years of practice experience in both private and corporate optometry settings.  She currently practices at ForEyes in Cranston, Rhode Island.

Dr. Sampalis, thank you so much for joining us to share practice management pearls with your corporate optometry peers.

Can you briefly give us more background on why you chose a career in corporate optometry?

Dr. Sampalis: Corporate optometry offered me a turn-key apporach to start my business with an established patient base, experience with partners, and to be able to practice in my own city.  It also didn't require a large up-front investment while delivering the marketing and the big business tools to help me succeed.

Having worked in private practice prior to becoming a business owner in a corporate practice, what was your biggest surprise about corporate optometry?

Dr. Sampalis:  The biggest positive surprise was the support in terms of all the resources offered to start a business and to keep it going (for example pricing information and business management software).  However, billing was another big surprise.   Billing was not covered in detail during school for me, but it’s something one has to learn quickly.  Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there for billing, and I have now learned how to bill routine versus medical billing and handling deductibles and insurance authorizations. The great thing is that corporate optometry allows you to be able learn from mistakes and have those mistakes not be as costly, because the overhead is low and the patient volume is there.  The learning curve is a lot nicer to you.

What would you tell young optometry grads, that are trying to decide between a career in private practice versus corporate optometry?

Dr. Sampalis: I would say go into corporate work first. See what it is like to develop a patient base.  Hammer down your communication and clinical skills, because you are going to see a broad variety of patients.  See if the business aspect is for you.  You might find that you don’t like the business side of things. You may just want to practice in a hospital setting or in a non-business owner role as an associate doctor, for example. 

Now let’s talk more about why an OD, who does not benefit from contact lens sales directly, should be proactive about fitting contact lenses.

Dr.Sampalis:  Fitting contact lenses is more than selling lenses, it is also building your practice and retaining patients.  You are there to retain the patient over the long term to build your business and ideally get referrals from them.  Sometimes doctors will not see the value in this because they are not selling the materials, but they need to think bigger picture about their long-term practice growth strategy.

How do you apply that thinking in your own practice?

Dr. Sampalis: My starting goal is always to retain the patient in my chair and, by offering them a great experience, to build my business through their referrals.  I want them to buy from my optical, even though I am not directly benefiting from it financially, because I want them to come back to see me. I try to present the option of wearing contact lenses to all of my patients who are suitable candidates.   To my glasses-only patients I’ll say “I understand you wear glasses and you are happy that way, that is fine.  You do have the option to wear a daily lens, if you want to for the weekend, for hobbies, for the gym,  or for going out to dinner.”   I feel that it is best to give patients options, otherwise they are going to feel like you did not give them the best care, and they may go somewhere else.

Do you feel like you see your contact lens patients more often than your spectacle only patients?

Dr.Sampalis:  Yes, because they need their prescriptions renewed yearly as they run out of contacts.  Obviously, it depends on compliance of your patients, but it also is from your patient education when you explain to them why they need to change their contacts in a compliant manner.  Because we focus on educating our contact lens patients on compliance we do see them a lot more often. 

Do you find that there is a specific type of contact lens patient that is more loyal and less likely to migrate?

Dr.Sampalis:  In my experience it is the multifocal and toric patients that are easier to retain.  Sometimes these patients have been told that they are not candidates for contact lens wear or have not been fit optimally.  In our practice we address any issues and communicate properly with the patients.    We find that this makes patients much more loyal.  They feel like you are a better doctor and trust you.  Offering optimal vision on these types of lenses enables your practice to better compete with online competitors.

Is there anything else you’d like to share on the concept of contact lenses benefitting the ECP, even if they are not in a position to sell the contact lenses directly? 

Dr.Sampalis:  In corporate optometry, a lot of patients will come in with an outside prescription.  Be sure to let them know that there is a doctor at the practice.   Corporate optometry offers value to the patient in terms of convenient eye care.   You can use that to your advantage and let those patients know that if they have a prescription that is going to be expired soon that the doctor is there to do an eye exam within the next day or two, and they’ll also to be able to refill that script and purchase at that location.  It benefits you and it benefits the optical too.

Thanks for reading this installment of corporate optometry practice management pearls with Dr. Maria Sampalis.   Be sure to join us for our next segment where will discuss embracing technology in your corporate practice to increase efficiency and expand your business.

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