Focus Series: Contact Lenses Can Contribute Significantly to Overall Practice Revenues

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NEW YORK— New designs, new materials and new modalities have been fueling rapid growth in the contact lens sector. In fact, over the past decade, contact lens sales have grown at a compound annual rate of 6.6 percent, as eyeglass sales have stayed relatively stable, at just 0.7 percent.

But not all eyecare professionals and optometrists have yet tapped in to the category’s potential and recognized contact lenses’ long-term value to their overall business.

This new editorial series, a collaboration between Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business, will explore the ways that contact lenses are contributing top and bottom line to modern optical practices.

The growth of contact lenses, as a category, has been outpacing the growth of eyeglass sales overall for the past few years. In 2013, VisionWatch, the annual study of consumer purchasing habits conducted by The Vision Council, estimated that 16 percent of the total U.S. population, and 21 percent of the vision correction population wear contact lenses. That is a significant increase from 10 years ago, when 17 percent of the vision correction population wore contacts. Ten years from now, penetration is likely to reach 27 percent. The steady growth in contact lens usage has occurred as contact lenses have become more comfortable, safer and more convenient to wear. Contact lens technology innovation continues at a rapid pace, promising continued increases in penetration.



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Further, the value of contact lens revenues as a proportion of total practice revenue is also on the rise. Contact lens patients are spending more each year to purchase new lenses. Back in 1985, before disposable lenses appeared on the scene, it’s estimated that the average soft contact lens wearer spent $60 annually for lenses. Today, average annual purchases are $106.

Vision Monday reached out to two eyecare professionals and contact lens authorities, both of whom have been committed to ensuring that contact lenses are central components of their offices’ vision correction choices for patients.

 

Keith Wan, OD, of Scripps Poway Eyecare & Optometry, in San Diego, said that he has been committed to fitting contact lenses since he started in practice. “Today, with the five ODs in our practice, we all do contact lenses. I tend to focus on the specialty fits, which I’m fascinated by, and we have lots of our patients in soft lenses. We’ve built our practice on contact lenses and, on any given day, we are serving patients from young to older boomers.”

Wan continued, “Our original goals were for us to target perhaps 10 percent to 15 percent of our revenues from contact lenses but I would say that we are now seeing some 30 percent of our overall practice revenues being driven by contact lenses. Daily disposables have meant a significant change and they are without a doubt our fastest growing modalilty. Patients are really responsive to the new materials options and the higher water content lenses.”

“I’m excited about the future, too, on the specialty lens side, which is a hot topic. Scleral lenses have been transforming our practice and really meet the needs of certain patients. We engage our staff to wear new materials and designs to get them passionate and excited about the lenses and we use a comprehensive lifestyle questionnaire for our patients and ask them about contacts, if they’ve worn them in the past, if there was something about their experience that they might change, and this gets the conversation going about all the new options available.”

In Boston, John Parrelli, a dispensing optician, brings a wealth of experience in fitting contact lenses for patients in his four offices at Parrelli Optical. “Without a doubt, contact lens patients bring the highest value to our overall business. They leave with the best optics, a more comfortable lens and the best vision.

“I’ve made contact lenses my personal specialty. We do of course offer a full service optical and we’re pleased to sell folks quality eyeglasses. But contact lenses have consistently been a large part of what we do— we’re not afraid to embrace any new technology. Perhaps 40 percent of our gross sales are from contact lenses; I don’t think many people in the business can say that today.”

 

Parrelli also talked about the contributions of contact lenses toward more frequent patient visits. “Our recall system shows us that we have over 90 percent of them coming back annually, they respect what we’ve told them about the need to come back that often. With eyeglass patients, it’s not the same, for reasons ranging from insurance, which often don’t incentivize patients to come in for exams more than every two years, to the fact that there’s so much competition now from big box stores, the internet and cheap glasses everywhere.”

Parrelli said, “I always valued contact lenses, and always had an interest in it. I started my career as an apprentice optician in 1960 and when we started our practice, we knew that this was something we wanted to focus on. Contact lenses and contact lens fitting enable us to solve problems for patients. And, as I’ve learned over the years, with the advent of new designs and new materials and specialty lenses, patients go away happier and our profits increase as the complexity increases. These are premium products, too, which helps both the top and bottom line.”

Parrelli continued, “Dailies (disposables) really transformed things, because they offer the patient flexibility and convenience and comfort. More than 70 percent of the cosmetic lenses in my company are in dailies and lenses like the ProClear 1-Day Multifocal have been another boost. I believe we’re one of the leaders in the nation in this category since so many of my presbyopic patients now were the ones wearing contact lenses in their 30s and they’ve missed it. They weren’t satisfied with the option of wearing a 30-day product or reading glasses over their lenses. New multifocals really fulfill a market need,” he said.


This is the first VM article in our editorial series, a collaboration between Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business, which will explore the ways that contact lenses are contributing top and bottom line to modern optical practices. Visit VisionMonday.com to read the FOCUS series. To explore the content exclusive to Review of Optometric Business, visit www.reviewob.com and look for the Contact Lens Profitability series. ■

maxelrad@jobson.com