Top Tips for Increasing Annual Supply Sales

Dr. Jennifer Stewart portrait.

One of my favorite metrics to measure and impact in my practice is the percentage of patients who are purchasing an annual supply of contact lenses directly from us.  Having our patients purchase an annual supply effectively “takes them out of the market for a year”, significantly decreasing the likelihood that they will buy contact lenses from an online retailer.  It also creates habits; when a patient purchases all the lenses they need for the year and are pre-appointed for their next exam in 12 months, they will likely be more compliant with their lenses and return to our practices.

Why do consumers/ patients shop online?  They like the convenience and ease of pressing a button and having packages delivered to them.  There is also a lot of marketing and advertising money spent targeting our patients to entice them to shop elsewhere.  Lastly, there is a perceived cost savings- it is thought that purchasing contact lenses from a practice is significantly more expensive than buying elsewhere.

What can we provide our patients with when they purchase their annual supply from us?  There is convenience - we can either stock the lenses and hand them to the patient at their visit or ship them directly to the patient- no trip back to the office needed!  We can market this convenience to our patients.  To this day, many patients are unaware that we can ship lenses to them!  Lastly, we can provide great cost savings to them in the form of annual supply discounts, vision care plan contributions, and vendor rebates.

If we think about it, what we can provide our patients in time and money saved is exactly what they can find online – or better!  Do we make annual supply sales more cumbersome or complex than we need to?

The first step is knowing where you are, so you can know where you are going.  Many of us have a vague idea of what our capture rate is but haven’t taken the time to calculate it.  Once you know what that is, you can take steps to improve.

What is the definition of capture rate?  It is the number of patients who filled their prescription at your practice, as compared to the number who received a prescription.  The industry average hovers around 75%1, so this can be a benchmark your practice uses to see how you stack up and set goals.

Now that we know our capture rate, we can focus on our annual supply rate, or the proportion of patients who order a 1 year supply of contact lenses, compared to the total number who ordered lenses.  With the industry standard of 25%1, we have room for improvement.

What can we do to increase the number of patients purchasing a years’ worth of contact lenses from our office?  I find this comes down to a culture charge- does everyone in the office believe that an annual supply is the best for our patients?  For the practice?  A year’s supply of contact lenses gives the patient the best pricing, is more profitable for the practice, and increases patient compliance.  However, this relies of staff training, and everyone must be on board.

All staff, especially those at the front desk, should be well versed on the annual supply costs of the most prescribed contact lenses in the office.  They should be well informed and up to date on all manufacturer rebates and programs.  This is a great place to engage your contact lens reps- they are happy to provide education and training.  Annual supply pricing should always be quoted first, and team members should be quickly and confidently able to show discounts including rebates and vision care benefits.  Successful practices make “cheat sheets” with this information so it is available quickly, no fumbling around with a calculator needed.

We also should make the assumption that every patient is purchasing an annual supply.  This avoids the dreaded question, “how many boxes do you want?”, which leaves the patient to likely answer with the least number of boxes.  Other successful practices have their front desk member share with the patient that “the doctor has approved you for an annual supply”.  Our office would simply ask, “would you like your year supply of contact lenses shipped home, or to your office?”  Short, efficient, and very effective.

Our office utilized direct ship programs, either through the contact lens manufacturer or a distributer.  We found that direct ship programs streamlined the experience and cut down on the staff costs needed to take, process, and check in orders.  Patient payments were collected up front, which significantly decreases account receivables.  With everything else in our world delivered directly to our homes, patients are excited to have their contact lenses arrive on their doorsteps as well.  There are also e-commerce platforms available to allow the patient to order directly from your website, so they can purchase lenses 24/7.

Some practices choose to inventory their top lenses in office- they find that patients like being able to leave with their annual supply that day.  This can make it easier for patients to exchange lenses if needed.  Make sure to continue to monitor your inventory and keep your top prescriptions in full supply.

Increasing annual supply sales sometimes can take an office culture shift and involve patient education.  We need to all know WHY a patient should buy from us (does your team?), and make sure this is consistently communicated with patients.  We find that patients appreciate knowing that when they buy directly from us, they are buying from a verified source, versus buying online.  We also show true value and convenience to the patient, through free direct shipping, rebates, bulk discounts and utilization of vision care plans.  We communicate this to patients in office, and through social media, newsletters and on our websites.

Increasing annual supply sales in our practices can significantly impact our profitability, both on contact lens sales and increasing patient compliance.  By first measuring your annual supply rate, and then making a plan to improve this, through dedicated staff training, practices can see significant growth in their revenue. 

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1. Key metrics: assessing optometric practice performance. Management & Business Academy for Eye Care Professionals. 2015. Accessed February 21, 2022.

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