By Thomas and Amee Lecoq
The heat is on. Third party plans and corporate giants are putting the squeeze on profitability for primary care practices that depend on managed care volume.
A growing number of doctors have come to see that the future in this is grim, and that it is time to develop a specialty to lift them out of the path of the managed care juggernaut.
Having spent three decades in the field, I’d like to make the case for choosing vision therapy and its associated branches. This first article in the series starts with the need, or pent up demand for this service.
There is good news. Many VT practices thrive without accepting any form of third party reimbursement. How does that work? Signing on to a plan is a trade off. You are discounting your services in order to have access to patients. Thus, discounting is a marketing expense, at a rather steep cost at that.
Private pay therapy practices decline to discount their services and use their marketing budget to generate patients. Some act as out of network providers and fill in paperwork for their patients with insurance to submit. VT and insurance becomes complicated because patients come to believe that if it’s not covered by insurance it’s not worth doing.
Next, focus on the need for and pent up demand for therapy.
In a wonderful article by Dominick Maino, O.D., FCOVD, research shows that counting strabismus, amblyopia and general binocular dysfunctions, at least 20 million children and adults are in need of vision therapy. Calculating the number of serious VT practices and counting a generous patient load for each, only about 150,000 patients are getting the help they need, You can see that there’s a serious mismatch between demand and provider availability.
You really don’t need thousands of VT patients to do well financially. At a cost per case comparable to a serious reading intervention, it takes between 125 and 150 patients per year to produce a $1 million gross, with a typical net between 45 and 55 percent.
Of all practice settings in which to build VT, an existing primary care practice is by far the easiest to carry off. But starting cold with VT only is not hard to do either. It’s the marketing that does the trick, and most of that effort focuses on reaching those who need VT, but may not know it, yet. This consists mostly of community outreach through talks, articles, social media, TV and radio communication. We’ll cover community outreach in more detail later in this series.
Get our guide to starting VT in a primary care practice: www.idealvt.com/downloads.htm
There is one other critical aspect to making vision therapy the specialization of choice. That is education and training. While most ODs had a smattering of vision therapy in their schooling, few feel confident that they know enough to commit to caring for these patients. There has never been a time when so much training in vision therapy was available as it is now. Robert Sanet, O.D., FCOVD conducts a 5 weekend course every year. The Optometric Extension Program Foundation now offers its Clinical Curriculum courses each year. In the two days prior to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development annual meeting (San Diego in October this year, Las Vegas next April) there are a series of seminars covering the basics.
We are working with several doctors on a “beginner’s curriculum” called the Ideal Vision Institute, which will offer a three weekend course for doctors and therapists that focuses on less complicated cases. The OEPF also offers numerous forums and congresses with CE and a chance to connect with mentors. The same organization also offers weekend Regional Clinical Seminars.
After 3 decades of helping doctors start or expand vision therapy, Lecoq Practice Development is dedicated to helping any doctor who is interested in therapy to learn more, ask questions, help plan for the changeover. Contact us through the website, idealvt.com, No charge for a conversation and you can find interesting items on our downloads page as well.
While there are many choices for a special focus practice, the more than 20 million potential but unserved patients who need vision therapy and the practical financial implications make VT the specialty of choice.
Photo: Copyright: senkaya / 123RF Stock Photo
Thomas and Amee Lecoq are the owners of Lecoq Practice Development, which gives doctors the tools and a powerful system to ensure success with vision therapy.