Low vision services can be profitable

May 1, 2010

Most optometrists in private practice chose not to provide low vision services because they think that income opportunities are limited.

Most optometrists in private practice chose not to provide low vision services because they think that income opportunities are limited. As a result, patients are typically referred to nonprofit organizations or low vision specialists.

Times have changed. Dr. Lipschultz and his colleague, Rebecca L. Kammer, OD, FAAO, have created a continuing education course called, "Low Vision Doesn't Pay. Or Does It?" Drs. Lipschultz and Kammer believe low vision services can now contribute a healthy chunk of income to any primary eye-care practice since the number of people with low vision is expected to double within the next 25 years. Optometrists just need to move past old misperceptions, spend some time marketing, and make minor changes to their routine, Dr. Lipschultz said.

For example, he believes many optometrists still cling to the belief that they need a residency in low vision to deliver primary low vision care services, which target patients who have vision in the 20/100 range, no dense scotomas or complex daily living needs, and minimal psychological or safety issues.

Not true, Dr. Lipschultz said. He elaborated, saying that optometrists simply need to obtain some basic education, invest approximately $2,500 in a basic low vision kit that would include hand-held and stand magnifiers, distance telescopes, a contrast sensitivity chart, tints that reduce glare and enhance contrast, and an optional video magnifier, also known as a CCTV.

Dr. Lipschultz said video magnifiers, which average $1,500, are essential because they lower the barrier of anxiety for patients when they evaluate a CCTV first in the exam sequence. Once patients see how the technology provides dramatic improvement in reading, the stage is set for a successful patient encounter as well as additional income. Dr. Lipschultz' practice sells three CCTVs for every 10 low vision patients he examines. He said the average revenue per low vision patient can exceed $800, compared to $300 for traditional patients.

Time equals money

"You can generate 25% of your revenue with only 12% of your time," said Dr. Lipschultz, who is president and chief executive officer at http://OcuSource.com/, a Web site dedicated to offering low vision resources to patients and marketing services for eye-care professionals.

"You become twice as productive per patient than by offering other services," he added

What is your practice's slowest day of the week? At Southland Eye, it is Friday, so Dr. Lipschultz schedules all of his low vision patients on Friday afternoon. He blocks out 45 minutes for each patient but suggests that optometrists initially schedule 60 to 90 minutes until they become accustomed to dealing with low vision patients.

"You have to get your feet wet and learn to hone your time," he said. "You need to learn shortcuts in how to present options and overcome patient objections."