Patients get their contact lenses from alternative sources like 1-800 Contacts because it’s convenient. They like having the freedom to order products anytime. Like it or not, this isn’t going to change. In fact, thanks to the Internet, you can expect the opposite. So where does that leave us?

You can dissuade patients from buying lenses through alternative distributors by offering replacement contacts on your own office Web site. This requires forethought and some modifications to office routines, but it can be done. Here’s how to fight fire with fire.

Building Blocks
Before you put the “Sale” sign up on your Web site, here are some things to think about:

  • How sophisticated does your ordering system need to be?

  • You can let your Web site visitors send an e-mail requesting lenses. This is an easy way to get your ordering system up and running. However, this may create more work because it’s subject to errors on the patient’s part.

The online “shopping cart” is a more sophisticated approach that’s familiar to most online consumers, but this will most likely take outside technical assistance to set up. A shopping cart gives you all the information you need. All you have to do is validate the prescription and place the order.

  • To whom will you sell?

  • Will you dispense only to your patients or will you accept outside Rxes? With inside orders, you can use the same protocol as you would with a telephone order: Pull the patient’s chart, see if she’s eligible and then order the lenses. Filling outside prescriptions involves slightly more effort to verify prescriptions. Still, how you process outside Internet orders shouldn’t differ significantly from how you normally process an outside telephone order.
  • What products will you offer? Just offering contact lenses is a big enough job in the beginning. When you’re comfortable with online sales, you may want to branch out to solutions and other supplies.

  • Pricing and selling all major brands of contact lenses is a time-consuming task. You’ll appeal to an audience beyond just your patients if you include a wide selection, but be prepared to constantly monitor and update your prices to stay competitive. Including just your favorite lenses will make your job much easier, but it will also limit your sales.

  • Will you charge your usual fees or discount Internet orders?
    You’ll be competing with other contact lens sites. While there will be some incentive for your patients to order from your site, other patients will shop there strictly for price. It may help to give your own patients a discount to spur sales on your site.
  • Making Changes
    You’ll need to change your routines to successfully incorporate Internet sales into your office. The computer won’t ring like a telephone when someone leaves you an e-mail, so it must become part of your staff’s responsibility to routinely check for and process orders.

    Also, your patients have to know about your site. Tell every contact lens patient and hand out business cards with the Web address. Post a sign describing the process and how easy it is.

    One of our greatest attributes as a profession is our ability to adapt to changes. Right now, the way people purchase goods and services is changing. But, if we adapt, we can remain at the forefront.

    Send e-mail to Dr. Diecidue at

    Vol. No: 138:07Issue: 7/15/01