With 2016 only a few months away, it’s time to start planning for next year’s successes. While many of us likely define the success of our contact lens practice in terms of revenue, since the term is individually defined by each practitioner, it would be impossible for a single article to apply perfectly to every reader’s own definition. Instead, let’s use an increase in practice revenue as the definition of success here.

There are three ways to generate more revenue in your contact lens practice: increase the number of patients, raise fees or see the same patients more frequently. Let’s focus on increasing the number of patients.

Industry-wide, the net growth of total contact lens patients has been increasing at a snail’s pace. That’s because the number of new wearers is just slightly more than the number of dropouts. As we know, most patients cease contact lens wear due to decreased comfort (typically stemming from dryness) or vision (usually from inadequate presbyopic correction.)

Making Your Move
So, keeping that in mind, how can you prepare for a better 2016? As we think about getting more patients, our “business brains” immediately jump to exactly that—acquiring more patients. Yet, the premise would be better stated and your practice better suited if you also incorporate patient retention in your thought process. Remember that dropout rates are nearly on par with new wearers. So, if you are able to stem the outflow of patients and keep more patients in lenses, your revenue will increase in successive years. This concept isn’t breakthrough math by any means, but it is a significant shift in practice management mindset—that is, putting an inordinate amount of leverage on keeping current patients vs. always chasing new ones.

A great way to plug the holes in the patient dropout bucket is to continually survey your current patient base about their level of satisfaction with their lenses. While you likely already ask those who return for follow-up appointments about their lenses, you can’t do the same for those who do not return—at least, not face to face. However, proactively addressing even minor patient complaints can change a patient’s mind from marginally happy and subsequently eventually dropping out to remaining in the practice for life.

How can you reach these patients, who are already delinquent on their follow-up appointments? Try communicating with them either online, via snail mail surveys or phone interviews. Be sure to word your questions such that patients know there’s a solution to the problem they are having. For example, don’t simply ask, “On a scale of one to 10, how happy are you with the comfort of your contact lenses?” Instead, follow that up with an additional question like, “If you answered eight or less, have you contacted our office to discuss why your lenses are not a nine or 10?”

The same goes for probing about vision concerns. You could ask your presbyopes, “How satisfactory is your far and near vision with contact lenses?” As above, when a response is less than a certain predetermined point, ask, “If your vision isn’t as clear as you’d like, have you scheduled an appointment with us to help you see better?”

Of course, some readers may read this and think, I’d rather not know! or Why open up the can of worms? Keep in mind, this technique isn’t essential to your success—rather, it’s a suggestion. But if you really want to decrease the rate of dropouts from your practice, you need to be proactive in doing so. Patients who are marginally happy and at risk of abandoning lenses are not necessarily as apt to complain as loudly as those who perceive their problems to be more significant. To ensure those patients with minimal end-of-day dryness or less-than-perfect vision don’t silently disappear, you need to actively reach out and attempt to solve their problems before you lose them—possibly forever.