The Sightbox scoop from J&J’s Peter Menziuso

October 20, 2017

If the rate of change in optometry this year has your head spinning, hold on tight with this next one. On September 18, 2017, Johnson & Johnson Vision (JJV) announced the acquisition of Sightbox, an online contact lens subscription box service that sells direct to consumer Acuvue contact lenses, and yes, contact lenses from the three other major contact lens manufacturers.

If the rate of change in optometry this year has your head spinning, hold on tight with this next one. On September 18, 2017, Johnson & Johnson Vision (JJV) announced the acquisition of Sightbox, an online contact lens subscription box service that sells direct to consumer Acuvue contact lenses, and yes, contact lenses from the three other major contact lens manufacturers.

It was a move that surprised many ODs, but as we look beyond the surface, this acquisition says so much about the current state of our profession and healthcare as a whole.

Previously from Defocus Media: How IPL can help dry eye

Loyal online shoppers

Nationally, 18 percent of contact lens sales are made online. Peter Menziuso, president of JJV North America, says that market research performed in considering the acquisition of Sightbox implies not only will that number continue to rise, but that patients who are online shoppers are loyal to the method, and will not be recaptured back to in-office sales.

When doctors rail against Sightbox for taking away their ability to sell contact lenses in office, Menziuso counters that patients using Sightbox were never going to purchase in office, anyway. These patients had already made the decision to become online consumers, and the challenge JJV was facing was how to keep dedicated online consumers in innovative contact lens technology.

 

Getting the patient in the chair is the challenge that JJV is hoping to address with Sightbox. Online prescription renewal services do just that-renew the prescription the patient is already wearing. With JJV focused on bringing to the table new products in both monthly and daily category lenses, it’s in its interest-as well as the interests of all contact lens manufacturers-to have patients fit into new products. Continuing to promote a marketplace of innovation and new product development is a major reason why online contact lens services have raised enough attention that now a major vendor wants to get into the game.

How Sightbox works

A patient who signs up for Sightbox would provide her current optometrist’s name or, if she doesn’t have a current doctor, the location in which she want to be seen. Sightbox then calls the specific provider or the nearest local provider to set up an agreement for process: Sightbox will pay the exam and the contact lens evaluation services at your “usual and customary” rate on the day of the exam. The contact lens prescription found at the time of service will be filled by Sightbox. Providers can choose to accept this agreement or decline; Sightbox will then look a new provider for the patient in question.

Related: Low-cost contact lens site looks to improve compliance, drive exams

Keep patients coming back

In talking with Menziuso on this podcast, it was refreshing to hear no false reassurances about how this model will affect your practice. So often we’ve heard purveyors of subscription modalities tout that once the patient is in your chair, you have the ability to convince him to purchase eyewear or other noncovered services. In my experience, Sightbox patients don’t so much as bring a wallet to the exam; everything has been paid for in advance, and it is strictly a “no extras” transaction. But Menziuso does charge ODs with establishing a reason to keep that patient loyal to visiting a doctor every year. Sightbox patients are paying a premium vs. other online contact lens vendors to have their exam fees covered. The value of the exam is something that we as ODs must establish to keep online patients coming back.

Are we at a place where we are willing to accept that roughly 20 percent of our contact lens-wearing patients will never be whole to our practice? In a world where more and more patients are without vision insurance coverage, online subscription services seem like a win for them to avoid large upfront expenses of exam and contact lens purchases.

How will optometry face the challenge and find common ground with disruptors feeding off the volatility of the healthcare marketplace?

These are questions for our generation of docs, and we have no easy answers. Stay active and aware and talk with your reps. Let your voices and opinions be heard, but be prepared to come to the table with new ideas to meet the new challenges of healthcare in America. Not changing is not possible, but can we move the needle to institute changes in the direction that is best for patient health and the level of eye care we entered this profession to deliver?

If you have questions or concerns about Sightbox, Menziuso directs ODs to this website to submit a question or comment about the service and your experience seeing patients utilizing the platform: https://support.sightbox.com/hc/en-us/requests/new.

 

Reference

1. Nichols JJ. Contact Lenses 2016. CL Spectrum. Available at: https://www.clspectrum.com/issues/2017/january/contact-lenses-2016. Accessed 10/19/17.

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