NEW YORK—As the nation moves into the peak summer months of July and August, the signs that optical retail and eyecare are edging closer to pre-pandemic service and performance levels continue to emerge. For example, in Wave 24 of the Jobson Research ECP Coronavirus Survey, the key metrics of patients per day, profitability per patient and revenue came within a smidgen of matching June 2019 performance levels. (The June 2021 results for these metrics compared with June 2019 were, respectively, down 3 percent, down 1 percent and down 2 percent, according to respondents.)

The survey was conducted June 26 until June 28, 2021, by Jobson Research, and was completed by roughly 500 eyecare professionals. More than 90 percent of the respondents were either optometrists or optician/dispensing professionals.
In addition, the number of practices that said they are allowing walk-in patients for eye exams (48 percent of respondents) and dispensing (79 percent) both registered improvements of 11 percentage points compared with the results of the prior wave of the Jobson survey.

Wave 24 respondents noted that June 2021 results for “capture rate” and optical sales also continued to show improvement. Respondents said capture rate was running at the same rate as it was in June 2019, and optical sales were just 1 percent below the level of June 2019.
Another indication of operations taking on more of a pre-pandemic look is the amount of time now allotted to “cleaning” procedures between patient visits. With respect to “additional time” allocated to cleaning the exam room or office between patient visits, 39 percent of respondents said the time allotted for this cleaning is now only one to two minutes. The percentage of respondents who allot three to five minutes for cleaning between patient visits dropped to 39 percent from 44 percent in May 2021.
Indeed, 36 percent of respondents (compared with 30 percent in May) said that the number of persons receiving the COVID-19 vaccine has increased their overall comfort level and led to a relaxation of their sanitation and cleaning measures.
When asked if their practices could accommodate more patients than currently seeing, 72 percent of respondents said they could see more patients, a slight uptick from 70 percent in the May 2021 survey. Still, the primary problem holding back the 28 percent of practices that said they could not accommodate more patients is a lack of staff. Among this group of practices, 51 percent cited staffing as a reason that the office can’t currently see more patients. In addition, 15 percent said that government restrictions related to COVID-19 was a reason that their office could not see more patients.
Asked about lasting changes to their practice due to COVID-19, 36 percent of respondents said they would move to a “virtual sales call” process (compared with 35 percent in May’s survey), and 46 percent of respondents said they expected to move to an “appointment only” format (compared with 52 percent who expected to make this change in May). Thirty-one percent of respondents expected the pandemic to lead to more “work from home,” which actually dropped from 36 percent of respondents who in the May survey envisioned more work from home.

Jobson Research has been regularly surveying ECPs and optical retailers since the COVID-19 crisis and shutdowns began in mid-March 2020. The respondents to the June survey identified primarily as optometrists (51 percent) or optician/ dispenser (40 percent), and were 62 percent female.
Among the respondents, 76 percent said they are affiliated with an independent or single-location practice.
Go to VM's Coronavirus Briefing section where you can catch up on all of the 2020 and 2021 Jobson surveys.
Click to view a PDF of the full Wave 22 survey results.