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Monday / June 27.
HomeminewsOptoms Told: “Hand Over The Scripts”

Optoms Told: “Hand Over The Scripts”

Local optical practices are likely to lose the financial benefits of some frame sales to an innovative online eyewear retailer, the awkwardly named Sneaking Duck.

The Australian based company has been established by the founders of the successful online retailer Shoes of Prey – Michael Fox, Jodie Fox and Mike Knapp, in conjunction with Mark Capps, who until recently was the agency operations head at Google Asia Pacific.

Mr. Capps is now the full-time CEO of Sneaking Duck.

Sneaking Duck’s glasses are priced at AUD$180 for the first pair and AUD$90 each for subsequent pairs (including frames, lenses and delivery).

…ask the optometrist that you visited most recently for a copy of your prescription. They should be able to post it, fax it or email it to you. Be sure to ask for them to include your Pupil Distance. Sometimes you’ll encounter resistance to supplying your prescription – we’ve found being sweet, but insistent, generally solves the problem

Patient Script Supply Tips

The company’s website asks customers to upload two portrait photos to the site so they can “try on” the frames. They then tell customers to: “ask the optometrist that you visited most recently for a copy of your prescription. They should be able to post it, fax it or email it to you. Be sure to ask for them to include your Pupil Distance. Sometimes you’ll encounter resistance to supplying your prescription – we’ve found being sweet, but insistent, generally solves the problem. And don’t forget that they are obliged to give you a legible copy.”

Alternatively, Sneaking Duck advises customers to “provide us with your optometrist’s details and we can contact them (the optometrist) ourselves.”

Andrew Harris, Chair of the Optometrists Association of Australia (OAA), says it’s not new for optometrists to be asked to provide scripts and that under Medicare rules, all optometrists are obliged to inform a patient their prescription is available following a consultation. “Whilst Sneaking Duck is a new entity, there have been various competitors for some time to optometrists, be it internet businesses or other optical dispensers and optometrists,” he said.

In the face of this, he added, “optometrists continue to need to develop techniques and strategies for retaining these customers”.

Mr. Harris said that while frames are seen as a fashion accessory, it is important to recognise they are highly sophisticated items, which should “ideally be chosen with a full understanding of one’s visual needs in mind”.

“The choice of frames, lens design and the various coatings available are important decisions that individual optometrists and their practice staff can provide the best possible advice on, in order to optimise the visual outcome for the individual patient.”

Additionally, he said frames sold in optometrist practices must comply with the relevant Australian Standard, which contains requirements regarding materials, workmanship and finish etc. Materials must not absorb water unduly, should not deform under normal temperatures, should not be able to be damaged by cosmetics and should be non-irritant.

“For some it may be convenient to purchase these items on the internet, however professional face-to-face advice will ensure the best outcome for a patient’s vision needs,” he said.

To Bulk Bill – or Not

When asked whether optometrists should protect themselves from loss of income by charging customers for eye tests, Mr. Harris said it is up to individual eye care professionals to choose how they bill patients for the provision of optometric services.

“The Association has for a long time advised members that it does not require members to bulk bill any or all of their patients.” However, he said, “if they decide to work within Medicare, then they are obliged to follow the rules they agreed to when signing the Common Form of Undertaking”.

Mr. Harris said there are several issues to consider when deciding whether or not to bulk bill. He added that the Association believes a patient should not be denied care because of an inability to pay or claim a benefit. However, “some optometrists believe that access to Government sponsored optometric care is a right while others believe that a patient co-payment encourages responsible use of services – some optometrists feel that patients will not value a service that appears to be free.”

In the end, Mr. Harris recommends optometrists consider the financial impact of bulk billing on their practice.

In the face of competition from on-line spectacle retailing both within Australia and around the world, this issue is increasingly important to consider.

Online Competition

Sneaking Duck also recognises the pressure that their own company will face as online competition heats up, so according to Mr. Fox, the founders of Sneaking Duck aim to grow their business quickly.

“Shoes of Prey has a few barriers to entry, which has slowed our growth but stopped others competing with us. With Sneaking Duck, the barriers aren’t there, so we can grow faster. But we need to do it quickly because of potential competitors.”

Shoes of Prey, which sells customisable shoes, was launched in 2009 and now has offices in five countries. The founders said the idea for Sneaking Duck came before this.

“We sat on the business plan, but it kept eating away at us,” said Mr. Fox, who blogs for StartupSmart. “We saw how cheap glasses were in China and we thought, rather than spend AUD$600 on one pair of glasses, why not have 10 different glasses, at a cheaper cost, to match different outfits? No-one in Australia is doing this kind of thing with a fashion focus.”

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