NEW YORK—The character of current business among ECPs and optical retailers is running significantly higher in May 2021  in terms of  profitability per patient (+29 percent), number of patients per day (+34 percent), revenue (+34 percent), optical sales (+35 percent) and capture rate (+23 percent) versus the May 2020 shutdowns and closings in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, each of these practice business benchmarks are again, in the latest Wave 23 of the Jobson Research ECP Coronavirus Survey, which was conducted May 26 to May 28, starting to even up to flat in comparison with the same period of 2019.

When asked if their practices could accommodate  more patients than they are currently seeing now, there has been a primary problem for most of the respondents—some 48 percent now indicate that lack of staff is their big challenge at the moment. Relatively few respondents now believe that lack of patient traffic (only 9 percent in the latest survey) or government restrictions (12 percent) are a barrier to business.

Forty-five percent, though, cite "other reasons" as to why patient capacity could be higher.  Based on responses to questions about the new CDC guidelines, which changed toward mask wear for those vaccinated (with the exception of health care locations), could be part of a reason why. Respondents report that the challenges of managing vaccinated patients, and trying to ascertain who might not be vaccinated, has been a trying issue in terms of communications, tension and, in some cases, broken relations with customers, including some walkouts.

A series of questions on the topic of the new mask wearing/not wearing CDC guidelines, ECP respondents to Jobson's Wave 23 survey displayed a range of results. Questions were asked of those who offer exams only, exams + a dispensary or dispensary only locations. Communications about the policies are mostly conveyed via signage at the door (a range of 77 percent to 82 percent do that), while 72 percent of those locations offering exams as well as a dispensary make mention of it on the phone when scheduling appointment far less,—38 percent, do that communication prior to the patient or customer showing up. 

Requiring proof of vaccination is happening from only a minority of locations,  13 percent say they do that for staff, while a range of 8 percent to 25 percent say they do that for patients.  However, more than half of the respondents say they have encountered vaccinated patients who started an argument when asked to wear a mask. And, from one third up to 50 percent of respondents said they have had vaccinated patients who are unwilling to wear a mask leave the location.

Click here to view a complete PDF of the latest Wave 23 of the Jobson ECP Coronavirus Survey.