Is the ROI on Our Digital Refraction Systems Too Good to Be True?

by | Tuesday, June 14, 2016 | 0 comment(s)

As the saying goes, time is money. In any industry the proper allocation and use of time will be one of the defining factors in profit and, ultimately, business success. This is especially true for businesses that, in a sense, trade time for money; like ophthalmic practices. However, it’s not quite as simple as saying the more patients you see, the greater your income.

The double edged sword to the maximize your time approach is that you can quickly work yourself into a situation where patient care and satisfaction are placed at the mercy of profits and efficiency. This is an obvious recipe for disaster and something that should be carefully guarded against. After all, in health care service industries, patient wellness is the ultimate goal. Time saving strategies must keep this goal at the forefront of all efforts.

What if there were a way to achieve both time efficiency and quality patient care, allowing Ophthalmic professionals to treat a greater number of patients? And, treat them well. What if advances in technology were not just about numbers, but actually improved patient care as well? And, what if the financial bottom line, the return on investment (ROI), proved worthy?


The digital refraction system provides the path to increased efficiency and better patient care. These systems save time and, therefore, assist the Ophthalmic professional in making more money. But, they also improve on patient care and increase satisfaction. The results of using this digital system are worth exploring.

What is Digital Refraction?

For the 250 million Americans with corrected eyesight, refractive error means light bends incorrectly when passing through the cornea and retina. Correcting this common visual hindrance requires a refraction test. Ophthalmic professionals perform a series of tests with several pieces of equipment to obtain results and write a prescription.

The Phoropter or refractor holds the honor as the primary piece of equipment needed to determine a patient’s prescription. A large, metal mask with multiple lenses comprises the refractor. Ophthalmic professionals manipulate the lenses to identify a lens combination that provides the best vision for the patient in reading an eye chart 20-feet away.

Converting this manual process of manipulation into a digital one proves more than efficient. Digital refractors combine parts of the exam, such as lens combinations and data entry, to be controlled by one digital dial pad. No more manipulation required. The increased accuracy and satisfaction of each exam benefits the patient, the doctor and the office.


Digital refraction benefits fall within two primary categories. Efficiency and patient satisfaction represent the heart of the reasons to use digital refraction systems. A few specifics of these benefits are addressed below.

Decreased Human Error

Several steps in the process of diagnosing and prescribing corrective lenses open an opportunity for human error. Manipulating the lenses of the manual refractor to determine a prescription, entering the details in a patient’s file and comparing old prescriptions with new ones present potential problems.

The cost of mistakes in these areas adds up to dollars lost to prescribed lenses that do not work well, glasses needing to be remade, patient impatience with needed changes and client dissatisfaction with wait times.

Digital refraction eliminates these issues through consistency and error-free exams. Plus, data remains in one place, which makes viewing easy. Accurate transferring of information to patient files is taken care of by the system. In other words, loss of time and money are decreased due to prescription mistakes and patient satisfaction is increased with glasses that improve sight beautifully in one exam.

No Wait Time

In a hurried culture, not many people are fans of wait times. Today’s consumers expect quicker results in less time than ever before. This does not change in the quest for better vision.

Digital refraction reduces the time a patient sits in the chair by bringing time efficiency to the process. All components of the exam are linked when using a digital refractor. For example, determining refractive error and any astigmatism in a patient becomes streamlined with this one step digital option.

For the Ophthalmic professional, this means more face-to-face time with patients and quicker exam appointments. The result becomes time and money saved as well as improved patient satisfaction.


While the primary goal of health care is patient wellness, reality dictates that revenue keeps a business operating. Therefore, with any new endeavor or purchase of equipment, the ROI must be calculated for wise business sense. After all, patient care ends if the office does not remain open.

In the case of digital refraction, ROI determines what is gained by purchasing this system. Practically, how will a digital refractor benefit an ophthalmology office? What will the cost savings be? Efficiency and patient satisfaction are great, but do they truly result from this manual to digital refractor switch? In other words, is this all too good to be true?

One Extra Patient Per Day

Let’s break this down into practical terms. Just one extra patient per day per exam room means extremely high returns over the course of a year. With the information above, that seems reasonable, not too lofty of a goal. Reasonably, the streamlining of the exam process could free the time to see one more patient per day.

So, what does this look like? The scenario is this: The exam fee is $60. Fifty percent of your clientele require glasses. The profit your office makes on each pair of glasses is $100. You have a small practice with only one exam room and you add one patient per day. Your monthly revenue increases by $2,420, which adds up to a $29,040 yearly increase.

Even if the profit on glasses is only $85, This same small practice increases monthly revenues by $2,255 and annual revenues by $27,060 by going digital. These numbers are impressive.

But, let’s say the practice has two exam rooms. Still holding at one patient more per day, but now in each exam room, revenue increases more dramatically. The monthly figure jumps to $4,510 with the yearly reaching $54,120. Even at a modest $60 exam fee and low profit on glasses, these numbers bear out well for the bottom line. Plus, the figures are based on only 50 percent of your patients needing glasses.

How about one more? Let’s raise the exam fee to $75 with a $100 profit per pair of glasses. There are still two exam rooms and only one extra patient per day per room. The monthly revenue increase this practice receives is $5500 with the annual topping out at $66,000.

The figures speak for themselves.

Aiming Higher

Yes, these modest patient increases reveal significant boosts in revenue. But, what if the figures aimed a bit higher? After all, the streamlining of exam processes adds up to a significant decrease in patient chair time. Plus, the time saved in transferring information to the required digital form takes minutes off post-appointment work.

So, what if the number of patients seen per day increased to three per day per exam room? Using the same practice of two exam rooms, a $60 exam fee, an $85 profit on glasses and 50 percent of clientele needing glasses, monthly revenue adds $13,530 to previous figures. This brings annual revenue to $162,360.

At an additional four patients per room, monthly revenue increases soar to $18,040. Annual figures reach $216,480. Remembering that these numbers are calculated on modest exam fees and profits on eyeglasses, the results are likely modest as well.

But client testimonies reveal an increase up to six patients per day with the use of digital refraction. While this seems a brave estimation, let’s do the math. Again, given the same scenario, the increase of six patients per day per exam room yields a monthly revenue boost of $27,060. This figure translates to $324,720 additional revenue yearly.

To get a more accurate picture of revenue increases for practices with characteristics outside the example parameters, an ROI calculator does the math for you. The data required includes the number of exam rooms, exam fee, percentage of patients requiring glasses and profit per pair of eyeglasses. After entering the expected patient increase, the calculator reveals revenue boosts.


These figures may excite and also seem unbelievable. Yet, experience and testimony prove that digital refraction systems boast a considerable return on investment. In fact, the average increase in patients per day is between two and six clients per exam room.

The time saved with more efficient exam processes, integrated testing and data filing opens opportunities to care for greater patient loads. In addition, increases in patient satisfaction breed loyalty and referrals.

Digital refraction systems promote success in the ophthalmic office in increased revenues, patient satisfaction and quality care. In the field of health care, this is considered a win for patients, doctors and their offices.
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