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Direct Debits Set to Grow
May 2, 2007
Direct debiting patients, particularly for contact lens care and products, is the largest lost opportunity for generating revenue with less than 5% of practices making use of the facility, believes Optisoft, provider of the most widely used optical software in the UK.

Most practices use inflexible standing orders, but this is an expensive system to run, time consuming to administer and as a result patients frequently gain products that they have not paid for," said Keith Sheers, Optisoft Managing Director.

Demand from customers has ensured that bank authorisation for direct debiting has become considerably easier in recent years. This also saves the banks considerable sums in processing as customers enter the details and BACS processes them centrally. Many practices are not aware of this change, claim the optical software specialists.

"A few years ago only the multiples were able to do this, but most independents should now be able to do it too - it is certainly worth asking. With standing orders every transaction has to be reconciled via a bank statement. It is onerous and sometimes does not get done. It is therefore an almost impossible task to achieve with any volume," added Keith.

These administrative demands contrast with the ease and flexibility of direct debiting which allows payments to be changed and patients notified. Not only can the practice ensure that billing is correct, but the cost is approximately a quarter of the standing order charge levied by most High Street banks.

Don Wood, a long-standing Optisoft user, has a specialist contact lens practice in Nottingham that is committed to the benefits of direct debiting.

"Ten years ago we had 1,500 standing orders and we asked the bank for help in administering them, and it was an easy switch to direct debiting. It is so straightforward and I would not be without it, as it brings many benefits.

"We offer replacements for damaged or lost lenses that have been purchased by direct debit, but not on cash sales; we give discounts on specs to direct debit contact lens patients and we have a direct debit price brochure that we promote to patients," said Don.

"Several of the contact lens companies offer direct debit schemes to patients but I prefer to be in control of my patients and the most important aspect of my business - turnover," he added.

As the Optisoft system deals with both standing orders and direct debits, users can upload their existing portfolio of standing orders and migrate them across to direct debit, ensuring minimum disruption to the practice.

In addition, the Optisoft system automates the price change notifications and can automatically generate a range of letters to patients, for example welcoming them to the scheme; polite payment rejection and scheme cancellation, thereby ensuring that there is no lost revenue.

"Optisoft Direct Debits enable you to see at a glance all the relevant information about any particular patients orders and their full payment history, which can be very useful," added Keith.

Related Article : Direct Debit Bureau Launched By Optisoft