In-office finishing should be a practice consideration

September 1, 2010

Today's general economic conditions and individual business owners' needs to maximize profit models is one underlying rationale for in-office finishing.

The ability of ODs to compete and retain or gain better control over their businesses and financial destinies is no longer an outsource-versus-in-house balancing act. IOF has been a mainstay for a little more than 50% of optometric practices across the United States for about 20 years. However, it's been more common in Eastern and Midwestern states than Western states.

Some of this variance has been directly related to prior policy requiring specific third- party payer work to be sent from the optometric practice to a certified or wholly owned wholesale lab for full accommodation of the prescription job (surfacing of lens on through finished lens product). In some cases, policies have prevented either independent ODs from considering IOF at all, or practices that do finish from upgrading their existing edging technology to more feature-rich systems.

Because this is a significant policy shift, the business opportunity aspects cannot be underestimated. By way of developing very competitive reimbursement for single-vision jobs, ODs can increase their revenue stream (based on lens material, coatings, and add-ons) via IOF. The long-standing return-on-investment (ROI) models for edging onsite are inherently strengthened by this new, and likely to expand (beyond single-vision stock lenses), initiative and policy change.

Caveats to this policy exist, however, including sourcing single-vision lenses directly from a wholly owned VSP lab. This course of action may be more related to auditing and maintaining initial distribution needs of the national rollout.

Phased-in approach

VSP reports that independent ODs have responded favorably to the new policy, and that interest in the "program pilots" continues to grow. The program is now being implemented in a phased regional approach, with an expectation that by early 2011 all U.S. independent optometric practices that handle VSP patients will be able to participate in this economic game-changing event.

The independent OD practice that already edges lenses in-house will have the opportunity to maximize opportunity further and, based on the volume of single-vision lenses, will likely position the practice to upgrade to greater technology or edging tabletop platform for the lab.

ODs that have not done IOF before will now be in a position to change their business models and offer a single-day-or less-turnaround opportunity, based on the chosen stock lens inventory for the practice. Edging companies provide various ROI tables for a practice to input their own level of prescription work so a realistic investment versus payoff return for new technology is easily calculable.