From Review of Optometric Business, reviewob.com

An in-house lens fabrication system enables the independent optometrist to compete with corporate eyecare retailers by offering parallel speed and convenience—with economics that favor your practice.

 

For many prospective patients, the draw of perceived greater convenience at large, corporate eyecare retailers is irresistible. Many probably suspect they will get greater one-on-one attention at the practice of an independent OD, but may fear they will wait longer for eyewear. This can often be true—but not for those of us who have invested in superior in-house lens fabrication systems. The technology I use, QSpex, allows my practice to produce high-quality eyewear in-house at a speed that is on par with many of the large optical retail chains. Here is how I use this system to compete more effectively in the eyecare marketplace.

 

Gordon G. Wong, OD

GW Eye Associates
La Jolla, Calif.

University of Houston College of Optometry, Class of 1991

Practice purchased from an ophthalmologist in 1994

Number of ODs:
Two: Dr. Wong and brother Wildon Wong, OD

Number of support staff
Six full-time and four part-time staff members

Comprehensive exams
~2,000 annually

Annual revenues
$1.2 million

Regain Control Over Eyewear Turnaround Time
I have been using the QSpex system for about six months. I started using it to re-gain control over the turnaround time from the lab and the quality of the progressives that I dispense. I was finding that the labs (and I've used them all) were not returning quality product in a timely manner. It was frustrating because we would tell patients that their eyeglasses order would take seven to 10 workdays to complete (industry standard statement to patients); however, more and more jobs were taking much longer. Patients were getting angry, posting bad reviews online and asking for money back. The QSpex system is doing exactly what we wanted it to do in that it enables us to control our own product manufacturing timeline and quality. Now I can tell patients that their eyewear will be done in one to two days and sometimes even the same day!

ROI in Three to Four Months
The system cost us about $5,000, but we feel we are making money back immediately in the sense that we are no longer subject to the inadequacies and short-comings of the outside labs. The real answer is that we will realize a return of investment within three to four months of full-time use. It took my optical department two to three months to have confidence in the product. We actually had to re-organize our staff because our previous staff was not open to trying it.

Practice-Differentiating Game-Changer
Having an effective in-house lens fabrication system is definitely a game-changer or field-leveler since now I can offer same-day or next-day service. Recently we made three pairs of eyeglasses for a patient who needed them right away. Initially they just wanted their prescription to take to the mall, but they were more than happy to have us make their glasses. This story actually brings up a good point, that most our patients don't want to go somewhere else to order their glasses unless there is something they want that they think we can't provide such as a desired price or speed.

Majority of Lenses Can Be Created Using In-House Lens Fabrication
We make about 80 percent of our non-VSP lab progressives using the QSpex system. We would make even more of our patients' lenses using QSpex, but the system currently only can produce lenses between -4.25D to +2.00D and cylinder up to -2.00D, and there are still no QSpex photo-chromatic lenses yet (although photo-chromatic in QSpex lenses will soon be available).

In-House Lens Fabrication: By the Numbers


Cost of system: $5,000

Cost of lens material/lens pair:  $65 per pair

Vs. lab: $230 per pair

Average time in-house: 2-3 days

Average time in lab: 10-14 days

Boost to Eyeglasses Capture Rate
We probably capture about 80 percent to 85 percent of our eyeglass opportunities; however, an increasing number of patients are getting their second, third or fourth pairs online elsewhere.

Remake Rate Low for In-House Lens Fabrication
The remake rate is probably about 10 percent to 15 percent. Ten percent of those patients either need a lab redo or prescription change. However, you are going to discover the need for a remake the same or next day whereas your lab typically tells you five to seven days into the order. How many of us have had the lab tell our office on day 10 or day 11 that the glasses have to be re-started because of a breakage or ARC failure. Then you have to call the patient and tell them that it's going to take another seven to 10 days. For us, those days are over!

Educate Patients on Eyewear Options from Exam Room
The bulk of the patient education in our office comes from the doctor in the exam room (or on the way to the optical). But the pre-tester plays a role as does the optical staff. I try to make my optical staff like a pharmacy. As the doctor, I am going to make a strong recommendation based on the just-performed eye exam then tell the optical staff what we need to do to meet or exceed the patient's recommendations.

Increase Net Profit to Practice
I estimate that the inclusion of an in-house lab using the QSpex system has increased my practice net profit by at least $5,000 per month.

 

Related ROB Articles
In-House Lens Fabrication: Your Practice Differentiator
In-House Lens Casting: Fast, Cost-Efficient Service
Ask Patients Detailed Lifestyle Questions...Then Select Best Lens Options

Gordon G. Wong, OD, is the owner of GW Eye Associates in La Jolla, Calif. To contact: drgwong@gweye.com