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2020 made us rethink the way we run optometry practices. We became more patient-oriented, started offering better online services, and found new strategies to adapt and overcome the challenges of an economy at its low point. Now that it’s been a year and things are starting to look up, what should you focus on? There are a lot of moving parts to keep your optometry practice profitable in 2021 and beyond.
Where is optometry today?
In April 2020, the American Optometric Association conducted a nationwide survey on the impacts of the pandemic on the practice of optometry. The survey found that many practices had cut back hours and had developed telehealth practices. Most importantly, 80% indicated that they had continued to provide emergency and urgent care. Clearly, COVID-19 had a significant impact on optometric practices.
In fact, one of the most significant changes in the business of optometry post-COVID-19 is the surge of the online vision care business. During the height of the epidemic, many online services experienced huge increases in product sales. These ranged from 100-700% increases in a given company’s various online services and product lines.
Moreover, several online providers increased their focus on lens prescription renewals. By doing so, they did not need a written prescription at all. In addition, COVID-19 precautions required that in-office practitioners purchase and install protective equipment and take time to pre-screen patients, increasing staff costs. Neither of these impacted the online providers.
Ways to keep your optometry practice profitable in 2021
In order to deal with the increased costs of in-office services in the era of COVID-19, many providers are putting a number of changes in place:
- Continue to improve efficiency.
- Use fewer forms.
- Move to online forms (none filled out in the office).
- Employ telemedicine where possible for follow-up calls.
- Require appointment deposits to make up for the costs incurred by no-shows.
- Focus on higher-margin products.
- Focus on in-office services (rather than products), like:
- Low-vision services.
- Medical services.
- Specialty lenses.
- Myopia management.
- Review insurance plans accepted and cancel the least profitable.
- Consider offering telemedicine.
- Offer online optical stores for try-ons.
- Improve hours to coordinate practitioner schedule with staff schedule.
The case for joining a provider network
When thinking about whether to join a provider network, the first question to ask is: What do you actually need from your group? Different types of groups offer different services and advantages. Once you know what you need, you can look for the group that meets those needs. For instance, you may be interested in low-cost products, marketing or even staff training. Networks are better at different things. Added value is what you’re after to keep your optometry practice profitable in 2021.
If all you’re looking for is product offers, then a buying group may be best for you. On the other hand, you may be interested in continuing education, practice building and networking. In that case, an alliance may be the better choice. Unlike with buying groups, an alliance will generally charge for membership. It may also require minimum purchases. However, if you’re looking for a richer service to help you build your skills and practice, the costs of joining an alliance may be feasible.
Make Vision Care Direct of Oklahoma your new network
Vision Care Direct of Oklahoma takes care of its providers and their patients. We’re used to working with local optometrists in Tulsa, optometrists in OKC and those in other practices throughout the state. Our goal is to help providers give their patients the best products and services while keeping costs low. In other words, Vision Care Direct is doctor-owned, and we want to help you keep insurance companies out of your pockets. The network offers:
- Plus Plans, letting patients choose any frame using their frame allowance.
- Industry highest reimbursements.
- Ability to use any lab you like.
- No forced concessions on overages.
- An Oklahoma network focused on your local community.
- Customer support from live people.
It’s easy to become a provider member of Vision Care Direct using its online application process. Take advantage of the opportunity to join a network that is local, that looks out for you and that lets you look out for your patients. Learn more about how we can help you keep your optometry practice profitable in 2021.