ECPs With Commitment Issues: Next on Oprah

A lot of eyecare pracitioners these days seem to have commitment issues. Like so many others in our society today, they have difficulty forming lasting relationships. Apparently, they don’t want to be tied down.

This is a serious and widespread problem worthy of an episode of Oprah. But I’d bet the talk show queen won’t be booking any ECPs and their long suffering partners on her program. That’s because the relationships I’m referring to are between ECPs and their wholesale labs.

The relationship between independent ECPs and labs has long been one of the bonds that strengthen our industry. To realize the extent to which those bonds are fraying is troubling, because it can ultimately become a destabilizing force that threatens our industry.

To be fair, there are also many ECPs who remain loyal to their labs. But many others change labs on a regular basis. The reasons for this vary, but it often comes down to two things. The first is a lack of satisfaction with the lab’s performance. As one OD told me recently, “You know how it is with labs. They’re good for a while and then the work starts to get sloppy. That’s when I know it’s time to change labs.”

No ECP should have to accept lab work that is sub-par. But ECPs must realize that no lab, no matter how good it is, bats 1,000 all the time. On the other hand, few labs consistently turn out bad work. If your Rxs keep coming back with problems, it’s time to pick up the phone and have a conference with the lab’s management. Most likely, there’s a communication gap between the practice and the lab that needs to be closed. As Vicki Masliah points out in this month’s feature, “Meet the Golden Lab, the ECPs Best Friend,” frequent, two-way communication between the practice and the lab is essential for a healthy, mutual relationship.

The second most common reason for ECPs to jump labs is that they are just playing the price game. In the quest for what they perceive to be “the best deal,” some ECPs have no compunction about switching labs on a dime. Yet how would these folks feel if their patients were to do the same thing to them? Wouldn’t they feel betrayed and bitter?

We know consumers today want choice, and the freedom to exercise their choice whenever they want. But loyalty and commitment are virtues worth preserving in any relationship, and the payoffs can be considerable for both parties.

Andrew Karp,