Part 2: What Would I Do if I Were a New Grad with a Fresh OD Degree?
By Thomas and Amee Lecoq
In part one, I shared what I would do, which is to start a private specialty, Vision Therapy only practice. Whether doing a cold start, VT only practice, or adding VT to an existing practice, or expanding VT in a practice, this series will give you a head start.
In this section I want to uncover some of the economic reasons for that choice.
Studies show that at least 25 percent of all children have vision issues that require more than just lenses to resolve. Most are candidates for VT. The fact is that binocular vision problems persist into adulthood unless treated. That translates to about 80 million Americans whose vision limits their potential in some way.
Technology in almost every field has moved so quickly that only those who read can hope to keep up. Having even simple vision issues can make reading and comprehending very difficult. So, people with these issues dislike reading, and for some it’s either painful or puts them to sleep. This is a huge disadvantage in what is now a very competitive world.
This means there are more than enough patients to support any OD who operates a VT practice. In fact, another 10,000 VT ODs would barely scratch the surface of the total need for their skills.
The market for VT and related services is huge, and with only some 5,000 practitioners in the specialty, there’s always room for more.
Now, for the numbers. We helped develop a quick start curriculum for those who want to start offering VT. The Ideal Vision Institute course is in two, 3-day sections and covers a basic, uncomplicated learning related case. We call them “Sweet Spot” cases.
The therapy runs 36 sessions, 9 months of weekly sessions, plus a typical four hours of direct doctor time. The formula for computing fees is part of our “Mastering the Business of VT” course, but boiled down, the cost of that program is between $10,000 and $12,000.
That means that a private pay VT practice only requires between 100 and 125 patients per year to produce a $1 million gross with a net of 45 to 50 percent. Lower in the first year, higher as the practice matures. With active marketing, this is very doable. More on this in a moment.
Not everyone who needs VT can afford it, and insurance pays out a fraction of that. So, I would not accept insurance as payment in full. At most, I’d fill out insurance papers for the parent or patient to submit. You’ll be in a far better position to make financial accommodations for patients in need when you have a healthy net. Fortunately, there are many options for financing VT.
But you won’t fill your practice without learning how to communicate what you do in a way that has parents, adult patients, educators and others in a position to refer, take action to get your help.
That is the key to marketing. The message must trigger recognition that the issue the parent is dealing with is vision, and that by implication, that you can resolve it.
My primary marketing activity would be direct contact with people in groups and organizations. Every city, especially smaller ones, have speakers come to present programs. These groups are filled with parents, adults with issues, grandparents and people in a position to refer.
Even though I’m not an OD, I often spoke to groups and regularly referred patients to VT ODs I respected in the area. For example, in a presentation to a senior group, several realized that I had described one of their grandchildren. Grandparents (I am one) are extremely aware that education is critical to that child’s success, and many have the means to pay for it and to transport the child to therapy. Women usually outlive their mates, and wind up with all the wealth. So, pay special attention to grandmothers.
Home schoolers are another important group. They have placed their children above all other matters in their lives. They have formed co-ops and support groups in many communities which are easy to find. In one case, I walked into a religious book store, which provided curriculum materials for home schoolers, and accessed an amazing number of opportunities to give talks.
People with money are not lone wolves. To produce high income, you generally participate in lots of relationships and activities with others. So, these groups often have people with great financial resources, or at least credit ratings that make it easy to finance therapy.
I would not directly pursue public schools. Many resist referring outside the district’s resident experts. You often find MDs on school boards who will quash your efforts. Very frustrating because so many children they harbor need your help. We found a much better approach; holding a conference with individual teachers to present the findings. This is a delicate conversation, and it can be trained. The laws around Individualized Education Programs (IEP) include payment for vision therapy, but you’ll have to learn how it really works. But I have had VT paid for by IEPs twice. But it would not be my first marketing focus.
I’d also build a strong internet presence, always emphasizing the recognizable signs of the problem. (Outreach is a two-day segment of our private consultation, way too much to put into a blog. Our documentation regarding this consists of two volumes, several hundred pages. All of the methods are actually simple, there are just a lot of them.)
If this article has been helpful, or has raised questions for you, we're happy to answer and discuss your plans and/or practice.
Next week, Part 3 of this series will go into staffing. The development, education and training of therapists, and of a key person who really makes the practice sing, the Vision Therapy Administrator. This is the person who causes things to happen, manages the processes, directs marketing and the enrollment process and gives the doctor freedom to pursue what they wish, to enjoy family, to make a difference in their world.