contact lens economics
Kids Your Ever-growing
Contact Lens Patient Base
BY WALTER D. WEST, OD, FAAO
Years ago, new contact lens fits focused on the 20-25-year-old population. That group expanded in both directions, from 15-35-year-olds to 45-50-year-olds (mainly for presbyopic correction). Many of those 20-25-year-olds are now parents, open to hearing about contact lenses for their children in middle or elementary school.
Many of those 20-25-year-olds are now parents, open to hearing about contact lenses for their school-aged children.
Fitting Kids with Lenses
When approaching new marketing strategies for our practice, we can stratify our database based on age. Our mailing to parents of 10-15-year-olds stresses the safety and ease of today's contact lens options. When parents inquire about contact lenses for their children, a proactive discussion is the best way to educate them.
Start with the child. Ask him why he is interested in contact lenses. Find out if the child wants them, or do the parents want them for the child? Children should give you clear reasons why they are interested in contact lenses (to see across the soccer field or "I hate my glasses"). If the child is vague or non-committal in his response, the parents may have more desire than the child. A child who is not enthusiastic about lenses will not wear them.
If the child is enthusiastic and responds well during the diagnostic evaluation, we perform the lens care instruction with a parent present. We often ask the parent to wait in the reception area while the child is learning the application and removal techniques. We schedule at least two follow-up visits, which helps parents see the caution we are exercising with their child's eyes.
Practitioners differ in which lens modalities they recommend for children. Personally, my recommendations are based upon lifestyle first, with optical considerations secondary. The child's hygiene also influences my recommendation (See Table 1).
1: A Tale of Two Children
Let's look at profiles of two patients. Ashley is an 11-year old-gymnast with a meticulous
appearance and excellent grades in school. Rebecca is 13, loves to ride dirt bikes, has average grades and has been careless with her glasses over the years. Both girls are moderate
myopes. While I would be agreeable to prescribing cosmetic two-week disposable lenses for Ashley, I would more likely recommend daily disposables for
When prescribing lenses for children, I prefer UV-inhibiting daily disposables for spherical prescriptions and two-week torics for
astigmats. While 30-day continuous wear lenses are appropriate for busy high school students, I am reluctant to prescribe extended wear to younger children.
Another consideration is corneal reshaping. While the primary candidates for this procedure are
LASIK-shy adults, myopic children and teens also benefit greatly from this treatment. It is especially suited to kids involved in contact sports.
All contact lens wearers, especially children, should have back-up spectacles. We ask parents to keep the child's spectacles updated along with the contact lens prescription. We also carry plano sunglasses in children's sizes.
Children should receive a year's supply of lenses at the initial fitting. It is critical to maintain their eye health, and a compliant replacement schedule is a must. These busy families tend not to drop in for partial supplies. Instead, they will purchase them while out shopping or via the Internet.
By providing extra special care and attention to your youngest wearers, you help insure an ever-growing patient base.
Dr. West practices in Brentwood, TN, and lectures nationally and internationally on contact lens and practice management topics. He recently became Chief Optometric Editor of
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: June 2003