The Specialty Contact Lens Market
Within a half-mile radius of The Gardens Eye Care, Dr. Rita Ellent’s 2-year-old office in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, NY, sit more than a dozen optical businesses selling eyewear and vision services.
“To say it’s competitive,” Ellent says, “is a drastic understatement.”
Differentiation is the name of the game and something Ellent has developed at The Gardens by dishing out custom-made specialty contacts.
“I saw patients coming in with all kinds of vision issues impacting their personal and professional lives, and as I saw more and more of these patients, it just clicked that this was my niche,” Ellent says.
Earlier this year, Ellent began expanding her practice deeper into specialty contact lenses, eschewing generic soft contact lenses for custom-made solutions tailor made to address a patient’s specific needs and condition.
“I compare it to a custom-made suit rather than one you buy off the rack: Everything is tailored specifically to the individual,” Ellent says, adding that the specialty contacts she has provided patients have spurred significant improvements in quality of life.
“In that way, it’s wonderful to know you’re truly making a difference,” she says.
Though these patients require significant chair time and, at times, handholding, Ellent’s efforts to address their vision problems have propelled the performance of her young practice. The patients, pleased with Ellent’s involved work after years of struggling with other contact lens modalities, have become active cheerleaders for her practice and refer new patients to her office.
“It’s been a fantastic avenue to pursue and dive into,” Ellent says, calling specialty contact lenses both financially profitable and a significant growth opportunity for The Gardens.
And as an added benefit, the specialty work has also energized Ellent professionally.
“From the clinical perspective, I’m seeing a diverse range of cases that’s keeping things interesting and broadening my knowledge,” she says.
Ramp up Your Business with the Specialty Contact Lens Market
- While Ellent has invested in technology to help her practice, including the recent purchase of a corneal topographer, she considers human relations central to serving patients with unique needs. “The key as a doctor is always listening to patients and understanding their needs and challenges, and this is even more true when the patients present a case that is not run of the mill,” she says.
- Ellent continues personally meeting with local ophthalmologists as well as cornea and retina specialists to build a referral network, which she calls “a successful strategy” thus far.
- For those looking to break into the specialty contact lens niche, Ellent suggests attending any industry meetings or lectures geared toward these niche markets. “Network, ask questions and use others’ experiences as a learning curve rather than relying solely on your own trial and error,” she says.