Even I can make frozen pizza at home. Sure, it’s not that good, but I can do it. So I’d like to think that a restaurant — any restaurant — could serve pizza if they chose to. As one of the most popular food choices in the United States, why doesn’t every restaurant offer pizza? Surely your favorite elegant restaurant, Taco Bell, McDonalds or Wendy’s could all serve up pizza if they chose to. But why don’t they and what does any of this have to do with your contact lens practice?

Simply put, these restaurants don’t serve pizza because that’s not what they do! They do what they do best — be it steaks, tacos or burgers — and they stay the course with those central food offerings.

If you’re like most practitioners, you have a general practice. You perform examinations, dispense glasses and contact lenses and you practice medical eyecare. You probably even fit some specialty contact lenses and you might even take on tougher cases such as an occasional postoperative penetrating keratoplasty or refractive surgery failure. Corneal reshaping might be something you dabble in as well. That’s common.

Few of us, however, have a practice solely devoted to contact lenses. And there are many reasons why this might not be a good idea (time commitment, too small a market and start up expenses, to name a few). However, if you’d like to step up your contact lens fitting game, here’s a strategy to help you do so.

Separate Locations,Separate Successes
A good friend of mine is a successful restaurateur in Southern California. He has a chain of several restaurants that can probably best be described as a sports bar with a beach cantina atmosphere. Recently, he opened a new restaurant literally steps away, and clearly visible from one of his existing locations. This restaurant, however, offers upscale Mexican cuisine in a contemporary setting.

Two restaurants, same owner, same market, but with two very different themes and potential pools of dining customers from which to draw. Can we do the same thing, or are we trying offer pizza in our practices?

If you’re genuinely interested in ramping up your contact lens practice, it might make sense to consider a totally separate location that offers only those services. This would give you the benefit of positioning this new entity as a genuine specialty practice. There would be no eyeglasses visible and no medical procedures performed here. You would have the luxury (and necessity) of a large diagnostic inventory and the requisite equipment to take on virtually any case.

The benefits here are a clear distinction to patients that this location is the place for specialty lenses and it avoids the confusion of trying to be all things to all patients within the same location.

The Sky’s the Limit with a CL-Centered Practice
Marketing opportunities abound with this model, as you can now venture out to other practitioners who are still practicing generalized care. If your “clinical chops” are finely tuned, you can market your practice to those fellow practitioners who have no desire to take on “impossible” cases and you can instill in them the confidence that there will be no “patient-nabbing” because this is only a specialty lens practice. You can invite them down to visit the practice to see for themselves what you do not do.

Of course, the skeptics might think you could take a referred patient and self refer to your main office, but that would of course be self-defeating for everyone. Additionally, with this arrangement, once a patient is successfully fit, a co-management arrangement might apply. The referring doctor could be responsible for follow-up care and lens replacements, if they are comfortable doing so.

As in “thinking outside the box,” it might be a good idea to “think outside your practice.”