More independent optometry practices are upping their businesses performance by investing in premium lens technology. Insight speaks to two practices that have recently made Rodenstock lenses and equipment the focal point of their ophthalmic lens offering.
Wangaratta Eyecare, based in the namesake regional Victorian town, experienced the biggest change in its business eight years ago when it relocated to the main intersection in town. Suddenly, the practice was attracting patients prepared to pay $700 for a frame, significantly more than their previous location.
“We knew people were already happy to invest in beautiful frames, so why not give them the option of having the best lenses?” says Ms Roxy Akers, who owns and operates the practice with her optometrist husband Paul. “We were having some issues with our previous lens brand and wanted to do better by our patients, so we knew it was time to start offering something different, something customised.”
A frames sales rep visited the store one day and began talking about Rodenstock’s DNEye Scanner, which has been helping independent Australian optical practices differentiate their businesses since 2018. At its core, the device is an aberrometer, topographer, pachymeter, and additionally a tonometer. Within a matter of seconds, it takes more than 7,000 measurements of 80 parameters to create “a biometric model of the eye” that is then cleverly used to calculate the final lens.
These premium, tier one lenses are known as B.I.G. EXACT in the recently revamped Rodenstock portfolio. The DNEye device has also helped the lens manufacturer create a new tier two lens, B.I.G. NORM, which leverages artificial intelligence to analyse data from more than 500,000 DNEye scans to put measurements from the subjective refraction – sphere, cylinder, axis, and addition – to much greater use in lens designs.
Akers was impressed by what she was hearing. She did her research and eventually decided to trial the Rodenstock DNEye Scanner 2 for six months before making it a permanent fixture in the practice in 2022. Wangaratta Eyecare also invested in the Rodenstock ImpressionIST dispensing measurement system that offers precise, 3D video measurement without the need for a jig.
Now, many satisfied patients are walking out the door with complete spectacles in excess of $1000.
“I believe we’ve got the most customised lens on the market by going with Rodenstock – no one is putting that amount of intelligence into their lenses here. We’re now able to offer something that local patients can’t get anywhere else,” Akers explains.
“Before investing, we ran the numbers to justify the return on investment we were very comfortable with where it all sat, but you don’t know how people will respond with a significant increase in the lens cost, but once we have taken them through the DNEye journey people are understanding the value they’re getting.”
She continues: “Our previous premium option, particularly in the multifocal, is some way off what we’re able to offer now, so we’ve jumped to a whole new level in terms of lens products, and some people might think ‘this is going to be interesting, do you think you can sell that?’, but we haven’t looked back. People have taken it up and run with it.”
Akers and her husband also own two other regional Victorian practices, Alpine Eyecare in Myrtleford and Eyes of Bright in Bright. ImpressionIST towers were installed in those practices too, and they hope to one day rollout the DNEye Scanner to these businesses.
This is because they’ve seen what the DNEye Scanner has done for their Wangaratta practice. Shortly after embedding the Rodenstock lens portfolio, the store recorded its strongest ever month in terms of revenue. Seeing such a quick result is validation for a major purchasing decision, which is now helping the practice differentiate from the two corporate practices and other independent in town.
For now, patients examined at the Bright and Myrtleford practices can access Rodenstock’s B.I.G. NORM lenses, which Akers says is still a cut above what they were offering previously.
But word is also getting out in the broader community about the new DNEye technology and some patients from Bright have been happy to make the one-hour drive to Wangaratta to be scanned for B.I.G. EXACT lenses. Once their appointment is complete, they can collect their high precision specs from their nearby store.
While Akers has been impressed by the product itself, she’s also been complimentary of the service provided. It’s been a big adjustment switching to an entirely new lens manufacturer for the practice team, with new terminology, features and equipment to operate.
Implementing the DNEye Scanner into the practice’s pre-test workflow (the business also recently purchased a new ultra-widefield camera) has been a small adjustment, with any additional time more than offset with the uptake of B.I.G. EXACT lenses.
“Our staff have been amazing – they’ve been 100% on board with the change, which is significant as we had been using the previous lens products for the past 10-15 years. We made the big decision to shut all three stores for a full day of training for everyone because we knew our staff would need to feel really supported to get their head around such a new concept,” Akers says.
“I’ve also had to call [Rodenstock Australia’s national sales and professional services manager] Nicola Peaper to troubleshoot a problem and she was so helpful – having people readily available who know the product so well makes a huge difference. And they’ve done refresher training sessions since; the product is comprehensive and there’s lots of things you can adjust, change and customise.”
In addition to this, when Wangaratta Eyecare had an issue with the DNEye Scanner, Rodenstock Australia general manager Mr Tim McCann personally drove a replacement system down from Sydney (14-hour round-trip). Akers and her husband Paul were also invited to Munich to visit Rodenstock’s headquarters and lens laboratory and witness the manufacturing process.
A premium lens that reflects quality service
In May 2022, when optometrist A/Prof Richard Vojlay acquired Collin & Kirk Optometrists, an iconic practice located in the Melbourne suburb of Thornbury, he was quick to implement his own optometric philosophy. Ninety-minute consultations, routine dilation and OCT on every patient, and state-of-the-art diagnostic technology define his offering centred on clinical excellence.
It was a significant gear-shift for the practice that was established in 1940 and somewhat lagged behind the times under the previous owner in terms of technology, frames and lenses.
But Vojlay wasn’t done yet. Now offering a premium-level eye exam, he needed a lens portfolio that reflected his service. When he took over the practice, the lens offering was fairly standard, with patients measured with a pupillary distance (PD) rule and marked with a texta. This level of service was perhaps a reflection of the suburb’s demographic some years ago, but Thornbury has changed and more double-income, young professionals are moving into the area after being priced out of inner-city suburbs.
As I’m offering the best possible consultation, I wanted to match that service with state-of-the-art lens designs and a precise user-friendly measuring system.
As a starting point, the new owner of Collin & Kirk Optometrists made it a priority to find a high-tech dispensing measuring system. After canvassing the market, he was most impressed by the Rodenstock ImpressionIST. Then Vojlay was shown Rodenstock’s flagship DNEye Scanner 2, to complement the ImpressionIST tower.
Despite being a significant investment, he “didn’t blink” once shown the value both instruments could bring to his practice.
“It’s like going from your basic second-hand Hyundai to a Ferrari,” says Vojlay, an optometrist of more than 40 years who’s a lecturer at The University of Melbourne and acknowledged as one of the leading contact lens practitioners in Australia.
“As I’m offering the best possible consultation, I wanted to match that service with state-of-the-art lens designs and a precise user-friendly measuring system that doesn’t require a jig on the frame to measure PD, heights, wrap, vertex distance and pantoscopic tilt. The ImpressionIST is easy-to-use, very accurate and patients are impressed with the level of the technology.”
For Collin & Kirk Optometrists, offering a premium lens like B.I.G. EXACT has been a welcome surprise for many of the existing patient base who have readily upgraded their spectacles.
When it comes to discussing lens options, he says patients put faith in the practice staff and a lot of it comes down to them feeling confident and educated in their choice. The Rodenstock system allows the practice to demonstrate the difference.
“With Rodenstock lenses, we’re able to present the very best option for patients and advise them about how they can obtain the best quality of vision – then we leave it up to them to decide. While it might not be for everyone, many patients offered a standard product previously are seeing the value in a thinner lens that’s customised to them and with better lens coatings,” Vojlay explains.
In his practice, patient’s often remark “it’s just so clear” when delivering the latest multifocal lenses.
“And when combined with a quality frame, I know the patient is going to feel very comfortable in their new spectacles. I’d much rather the patient had one pair of high-quality glasses every five years, rather than a low-quality pair that fall apart after 12 months. I hate repairing glasses – it’s a pain for the patient and for us as it takes up valuable time,” he says.
At the end of the day, Vojlay says it’s important for practices like his to remember it’s a long-term relationship being built with the patient.
“High quality services and spectacles are crucial to building loyalty, trust, and word of mouth referrals, particularly for independent practices,” he says.