From 2011: Capitalizing on Growth Categories

Offering your patients what they need builds loyalty and revenue.

By Matt Jensen, MBA

The hunt is on at practices nationwide for new ways to better serve patients and bolster the bottom line. To this end, practices are increasingly providing new health offerings that target their current patient base. An aging US population, declining reimbursements for medical care, and growing expectations and demand among patients for age-related offerings are generating a medical world that blends together diverse service opportunities.

This article outlines two emerging growth categories that ophthalmic practices are exploring as a way to generate revenue, offer a satisfying retail option at their point of service, and increase patients’ satisfaction by caring for their unmet needs.

FROM THEN TO NOW

Matt Jensen, MBA, showcased this article in the September 2011 issue of AOC. The editorial board felt that it was a particularly interesting article because Mr. Jensen’s advice from 6 years ago is still relevant in today’s practice.

NUTRICEUTICALS

One area of interest to patients and eye care specialists is nutritional supplements. For example, PRN Physician Recommended Nutriceuticals distributes and manufactures high-end nutriceuticals intended for use in every specialty of health care. The company’s condition-specific omega-3s and vitamins are tailored specifically for patients already consulting eye care specialists every day. Similar products are available through ScienceBased Health and Nordic Naturals.

Starting to offer nutriceuticals at a practice need not be difficult. At some point, either during check-in or when patients schedule their regular appointment with the office, a member of the staff should simply note in the record if the patient demonstrates a need for a nutritional supplement (eg, dry, itchy eyes or a reported history of age-related macular degeneration). Recognizing these preexisting symptoms not only contributes to a successful workup, but it sets the stage for a doctor-patient conversation that can lead to an offering of nutritional products.

The model for retailing nutriceuticals in the practice requires minimal training and inventory management. Once a patient enrolls, the product is sent directly to his or her residence, bypassing the practice. This arrangement increases compliance and, over time, can have a significantly positive effect on the practice’s bottom line. According to Stefan Schoen, vice president of business development for Physician Recommended Nutriceuticals, “A practice offering a cost-effective, therapeutic nutriceutical through a direct-delivery model should expect to make between $80 and $100 per patient per year, which usually requires between 4 and 8 minutes of physician/staff time. Therefore, starting three new patients a day in a direct-delivery model (factoring in a conservative retention rate) could easily earn the practice an extra $30,000 to $40,000 in the first year, a figure that will double the second year.”1

HEARING SERVICES

According to Physician Hearing Services (PHS), hearing offerings succeed in the eye care category because the audience is the same—the cataract, glaucoma, and macular degeneration population. The company has stated that approximately 50% (35-80%) of the senior population has debilitating hearing loss. Per PHS, 80% of the population with actionable hearing conditions (≥ 35 dB of loss in both ears) has never been diagnosed or treated for it. A contributing factor is that doctor specialists rarely focus solely on hearing examinations and treatment. According to PHS, 90% of all cases of hearing loss cannot be corrected medically or surgically, which means the only way to assist these individuals is to offer them a hearing-augmentation device.

“On average, hearing-augmentation devices sell for from $3,600 to $4,200 per pair, with a margin ranging from 60% to 67% of that price,” says John Olive, president and CEO of PHS. Most insurance policies do not cover hearing devices, making them elective. According to the company, practices optimizing PHS’s model compare it to the success of their optical’s revenue stream. The program is designed to have a minimal effect on the physician’s or staff’s time. A simple screening leads to the scheduling of an appointment for a full hearing examination, and a licensed hearing specialist takes it from there.

Practices have options for implementing a hearing strategy in the office. Although PHS offers technical expertise, training, and marketing recommendations, other programs such as EyeCanHear offer similar turnkey approaches to retailing hearing services. In the latter model, a flat monthly service affords the practice contracted hearing personnel, predeveloped materials, and leads generated through a nationwide product network.

CONCLUSION

Patients who can benefit from ancillary services walk through the door of an ophthalmic practice every day. Meeting their emerging needs in new ways can increase their satisfaction, build their loyalty, and improve the practice’s bottom line.

1. Schoen S. Offering nutriceuticals to your patients. Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. July 2010;10(7):56-57.

Matt Jensen, MBA
• Executive director, Vance Thompson Vision, Sioux Falls, S.D.
• Financial disclosure at time of article: advisor to numerous practices and companies, inlucding PRN
Matt.jensen@sanfordhealth.org