Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have noticed the bevy of direct to patient contact lens companies coming to market in the past year. There’s no mystery as to why – market research shows roughly 40% of the 42 million Americans that wear contact lenses currently are interested in signing up for subscription contact lens services for price and convenience. We sat down with the entrepreneurs of two very different subscription contact lens services to learn more about optometrists need to understand about the changing desires and behaviors of our patients.
Allison Granger and Beth Samenuk founded The Lens Butler after spending years working in the contact lens industry and learning the business from the inside out. As new and exciting contact lens technology in the dailies disposable marketplace became available, they saw that upfront price was limiting access for some patients to the very best lens technology. The Lens Butler partners exclusively with doctors to offer an in-office subscription service to patients so that they can break up their yearly contact lens purchase into easy monthly installments, along with the added convenience of getting fresh contact lenses delivered straight to their door. Their company offers lenses from all of the big four contact lens manufacturers, and lets doctors’ offices personalize the subscription boxes their patients receive with educational materials and information about office promotions. If you want to learn more about The Lens Butler, you can check out this podcast.
The team behind Sight Supply takes a completely different approach to subscription contact lens models by targeting patients directly. Founders Anthony Tavieso and Alec Schwengler were college roommates at George Mason. When Alec moved to Taiwan for a few years, he discovered the comfort and convenience of daily disposable contact lenses and started mailing Anthony dailies from Taiwan in his prescription. Once they tried out the comfort and convenience of daily disposable contact lenses, they knew they were never going back. Sight Supply lenses are manufactured in Taiwan using etafilcon A material. Tavieso and Schwengler say they are sticklers on following the FDA and FTC Fairness to Consumer Contact Lens Act, and carefully verify prescriptions for each patient that signs up for their service (implication being they are unlike another popular direct to customer contact lens disruptor). Currently they also partner with Opternative to offer online contact lens prescription renewals to help drive the possibility that a prescription will get written for their contact lens, though they would love to be able to work with doctors more directly to get their lenses in their office.
In speaking with the founders of these two very different approaches to improving the patient experience with contact lenses, one thing becomes clear: as doctors of optometry we can’t move at the snail’s pace of healthcare in offering our patients the services they want. Online innovators and disruptors are quickly moving in where we are leaving room for unmet patient needs. Listen to the full podcast to hear the Vision Council statistics behind what contact lens wearing patients say they want, and how we can help protect patients’ ocular health and provide them the convenience they desire at the same time.