The potential of contact lenses as a vehicle to grow the optometric industry in South Africa.
Background: In the South African Optometric Industry, Medical Aid Administrators govern output prices while optical suppliers govern input prices. This poses difficulty for Optometrists in adjusting their pricing structure to meet annual inflation rates. Each year the rental of business premises, staff salaries, cost of supplies and stock increase, while annual turnover does not increase in proportion to the increase of such overhead costs. The primary focus of this study was to determine if the contact lens market in South Africa is a potential source for growing revenues at a practice level. Methodology: Two questionnaires were formulated, a questionnaire for optometrists and another for consumers. The objectives of the study were: 1) To determine if optometrists are of the opinion that the profit margin is likely to decrease over time; 2) To establish if optometrists actively prescribe contact lenses as an aid to vision with the view of growing revenues. (To determine if optometrists view contact lenses as a means to increasing revenues); 3) To establish a consumer standpoint on contact lenses. Descriptive statistics and Chi-Squared analysis were performed to analyze the data. Results: Regarding the optometrists survey, 190 people viewed the questionnaire, 94 people started the questionnaire and 64 people completed the questionnaire. The completion rate of the survey was 68%. Regarding the consumer survey, 481 people viewed the questionnaire, 283 people started the questionnaire and 245 people completed the questionnaire. The completion rate of the survey was 86%. It was found that optometrists were of the view that profit margins were likely to decrease over time. At the time of completing the survey more optometrists did not actively prescribe contact lenses as a means to increasing revenues. However optometrists were of the view that actively prescribing contact lenses as a means to increasing revenues would be successful. From the consumer survey, consumers were willing to use and purchase contact lenses if given the option. Conclusion: The study concluded that contact lenses have the potential to grow the optometric industry in South Africa.