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The value of a contact lens patient


The general feeling is that the eyeglass patient is much more profitable to a practice then the contact lens patient. Let’s look at this misconception in some detail.

As I travel the country lecturing, I ask the audience if they would rather see a patient and then sell him a pair of glasses or fit him into contact lenses. It is very interesting that the typical audience will overwhelmingly say, “glasses.” The general feeling is that the eyeglass patient is much more profitable to a practice then the contact lens patient. Let’s look at this misconception in some detail.

Four questions for contact lens patients

Do the math

We must make some assumptions to analyze this based on some market data: let’s assume the average patient stays in the practice for 10 years. A spectacle patient returns to the practice approximately every 28 months, while a contact lens patient returns about every 14 months. Over the 10-year lifespan, this means that the spectacle patient has 4.3 visits, while the contact lens patient has 8.6 visits.

Next, we look at the average cost of an eye exam. The Management and Business Academy (MBA) studies show the average in the United States is $134.1 The average for a contact lens exam is $185 (averaging all types of contact lenses). The average revenue from spectacles is $138 and for contact lens sales approximately $80.

Next: Crunching the numbers


When we add up the gross profit numbers, we see that the spectacle patient generates $272 in gross profit, while the contact lens patient generates about $265. Therefore, most of my respondents are right when considering only one visit. However, we need to value the patient over the lifetime for our practice. When we look at these gross profit numbers over 10 years, a very different story emerges.

More from Dr. Geffen: Compliance is not my problem

The spectacle patient returns to the practice 4.3 times, giving us 4.3 times $272 gross profit, which equals $1,169.60 of gross profit. The contact lens patient returns for 8.6 visits, giving us 8.6 times $265 gross profit, which equals $2,279 of gross profit. Obviously the contact lens patient gives the practice much more profit over time. But we are not through yet! According to the MBA studies,1 the contact lens patient will purchase eyewear at approximately 25 percent of his visits.

This means we can take 25 percent of the 8.6 visits and come up with 2.15 purchases of eyewear, which equates to additional $296.70 of gross profit to the contact lens patient over the 10-year lifespan. The contact lens patient yields a total gross profit of $2,575.70, for the contact lens patient, which is 2.2 times the revenue for the practice. 

The lifeblood of a thriving practice

This exercise shows the value of contact lens patients to our practices. Such patient value is why we need to stop the large dropout rates of contact lens patients as well as why we need to ask all of our patients if they are interested in wearing contact lenses. We know that our contact lens patients take much more of our time in direct care, but they are the lifeblood of a thriving practice.

Rumpakis estimates that we are losing close to $2 million over the lifetime of our practicing due to dropouts.2 That number should be enough to convince you to be more proactive in making sure our patients are comfortable and happy in their contact lenses.ODT

Ensuring patient success with contact lenses


1. Management & Business Academy website. 2013 Key Metrics: Assessing Optometric Practice Performance. Available at: http://www.mba-ce.com/2013-key-metrics-assessing-optometric-practice-performance.aspx. Accessed 08/01/2014.

2. Rumpakis J. New data on contact lens dropouts; an international perspective. Rev Optom. 2010 Jan;147(1):37-42. 

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