by Dr. Jacque Young
About 10 years ago, a group of Iowa OD’s formed the Iowa Eye Care Alliance (IECA) to help preserve independent optometry in our state. Over the years, more and more of our labs allies were bought out by larger optical corporations, many of whom are more concerned about their profits than whether independent optometry survives. Their contributions to our doctor owned IECA have decreased significantly.
IECA made the decision to vertically integrate by forming an alliance with VCD Labs to counter this. Their proprietary, primary lens material has excellent attributes and has a low cost. They also offer less expensive CR-39 and very reasonably priced HD progressives.
Currently, I have a full-time associate and I see patients 3 days a week. My father was an OD and he instilled in me a passion for defending independent optometry. With our business celebrating 65 years last year, I am passionate about circumventing independent optometry’s potential demise.
We began using VCD Labs in May of 2014 and on a gradual basis built up to an average of $1100 per month billing over the last year. Until lately, we used them primarily for XIX, with SV CR-39 RX with frame are $25 and FT bifocal with frame at $35. This includes an AR coat, which has been very durable.
With an average RX cost of $30, this amounts to 36 prescriptions each month. We limit XIX patients to 2-4/day for my associate and I do not see any that are non-medical.
More recently, my office has been promoting blue light protection treatments for lenses. The cost of this is an additional $10, so makes this quite affordable to offer to our pts in what we call our Value line. With our Value line, progressive CR-39 lenses, with a basic cost of $53 or premium at $71,includes the AR, or the Blue Blocker can be added for $10.
We use our Value line for additional task specific RX’s and also for potential RX walkouts. We also have an Eyeconomy line with a slightly nicer frame line from Ideal, and charge more for this level. VCD Labs will be offering nicer frames soon.
Ordering is simple for staff. Turn around time is 10-12 days, with no patient complaints. We tell patients “up to 2 weeks”. Service and quality is excellent, with one remake due to wrong seg height. We call patients 2 weeks after delivery of eyewear and have had no concerns.
We continue with our long term relationship with our regular two labs. They do not miss our XIX low profit business. Until they can offer products with comparable profits for us, we will use VCD labs for additional pairs and inexpensive eyewear to be able to compete.
Our IECA receives a 16% rebate, compared to a 3-5% rebate from other labs who support us or did support us. Monies back to our profession from my small practice amount to $2400 over the last year.
Steve Gates has strongly supported our IECA, dedicating many hours over the years. Our vision plan has been updated to be more competitive, as it continues to have much versatility that others lack. We are working with Steve Gates currently to be able to offer Wellmark clients a premium eye care plan.
We realize we have major obstacles with opponents working against us, such as vision plans and corporate entities. If we do not continue to attempt to preserve, optometry will soon be in the same position as the pharmacy profession with extensive corporate ownership.
As a partner, the decisions you make impact both the future of your practice and independent optometry. With your well established practice of 5 doctors, a change to include VCD Labs would be minimal for your major labs for XIX.
It would create new revenues for both walk-outs and additional task specific eyewear sales. And the support to the IECA would help our efforts!
Thank you for your consideration!
Dr. Jacque Young