a Proactive Contact Lens Practitioner
these steps to increase your contact lens practice and retain patients.
By Steve Grant, OD, FAAO
world is changing the baby boomers are getting grayer, drier and, significantly,
more presbyopic. Compared to previous generations, they're also better educated
about health issues and healthcare delivery, including eye care.
In light of the changing world, we need to
adapt our way of looking at our business, in particular the contact lens business.
We should direct our marketing to patients' needs and to our
ever-changing products and technology. We need to constantly educate ourselves to
keep pace with this explosion of technological advances.
Educate the Patient
Believe it or not, the contact lens business is,
or should be, a very profitable part of your practice. Yes, the commodity factor
has kicked in, but the medical industry isn't
profitable because it sells flu shots or medicine. Likewise, it's the valuable services
that we provide that contribute to our profitability.
An uninformed patient is often the
most dissatisfied and the first to go to a "Doc-in-the-box" or to mail-order contact
lens outlets. You need to emphasize to your patients, especially price shoppers,
why you're important to their eye health, especially with respect to proper contact
Here are a few ways you can and should
educate your patients:
Stress Eye Health
Tell patients in
advance which tests you will perform during the examination. Before a patient leaves
your office, educate him about how he can contribute to establishing and maintaining
good eye health, good comfort and crisp vision.
Share Your Expertise Educate patients
about the many options and modalities as well as new advances in contact lens fitting.
Emphasize that you're a a professional who will guide them to the best choices for
their optimal vision and comfort.
Some patients may have incorrect information
about contact lenses from the media or other sources. Discuss these patients' concerns
and take time to re-educate them.
Emphasize the Process Explain that
proper contact lens fitting is a process that requires many important steps to achieve
Inform a contact lens wearer that even
though there may be no change in the contact lens prescription, many tests, in addition
to the routine exam, are necessary for a complete, accurate and updated contact
lens evaluation to ensure the health and safety of his eyes.
Explain Fees/Packages Establish fees
that are commensurate with the complexity of the case and explain them to patients.
Develop and offer annual supplies/packages for patients who purchase contact lenses
A proactive practitioner should be well-educated
on new products and technologies. Be sure you are up to date on the following:
Silicone Hydrogels The advent of silicone
hydrogel lenses has stimulated extreme growth in contact lens practices throughout
the world. Almost all of our patients could potentially benefit from the greater
oxygen permeability of these new-generation lenses. I treat my patients as I would
my family, and if a better lens is out there, I want them to have it. I don't ascribe
to the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Instead, if it's in my patients'
best interest, why not?
For years manufacturers have
been trying to address this cause of contact lens failure and dropout. With each
new design they're getting closer to handling this problem. Extreme H2O
(Hydrogel Vision Corp.) and CooperVision's Proclear lenses are made of moisture-retaining
materials. Vistakon has its Acuvue Advance and the new Acuvue Oasys with Hydraclear
Plus. CIBA Vision offers O2Optix and its new Focus Dailies with AquaRelease,
developed to help dry eye patients. These new modalities provide great opportunity
to the proactive practitioner to get those difficult patients, including dropouts,
successfully into contact lenses.
Astigmatism You no longer have to
fear offering soft lenses to correct this condition because of the great advances
in technology that allow manufacturers to fabricate quality and reproducible lenses.
To be successful and proactive in fitting these lenses, it's important to invest
in a complete set of diagnostic lenses from multiple manufacturers. Ordering lenses
each time you want to modify the power or fit is a tremendous waste of time for
you and your patients.
Toric lenses are also now available
in many different modalities including continuous wear and daily disposable wear.
And don't forget the high cylinder patients they, too, can wear contact lenses.
Often the best lens for the high astigmat is a bitoric or front surface toric GP
lens. Make these patients happy, and they'll make you a hero.
Baby boomers are getting
dry eyed and presbyopic, which opens the door to more proactive contact lens fitting.
In my office, monovision is still a successful modality. However, as a proactive
contact lens practitioner, I continually experiment with new multifocal designs
that are being developed. If you don't offer and fit new designs, your patients
will go elsewhere, along with all those potential referrals that go with them.
Hard-to-fit Patients Our practice
specializes in hard-to-fit patients. Therefore, we fit many GP lenses. Refractive
surgery has presented a new category of contact lens fitting: the irregular, flat
cornea. To fit these patients, you may need to invest in extra equipment and education,
but the rewards are well worth it. To take a patient who has spent a lot of money
on unsuccessful surgery and help him to see again is very rewarding both professionally
and financially. A successful and happy keratoconus patient is usually a patient
for life and, indeed, a great referral source. It's necessary to communicate to
the ophthalmic community that you have the skills and equipment to properly treat
Orthokeratology Corneal reshaping,
or orthokeratology, has been a boon to many practices today. Many patients are still
afraid of refractive surgery and want an alternative to glasses. Paragon has opened
the door to this modality both in teaching practitioners and patient advertising.
Other companies are joining in. Again, corneal reshaping requires more education
(certification) and an investment in another set of diagnostic lenses, but the rewards
are tremendous. It sets you apart from the mainstream practitioner.
Tinted/Colored Contact Lenses Patients
historically have been interested in changing their eye color. Offer colors as an
addition to a patient's clear modality. You'll be surprised how many people are
excited by the idea of wearing colored lenses for a special night out. The recent
introduction of CIBA Vision's FreshLook One-Day daily disposable colored lenses
will make this fitting process even easier. Also, don't forget those patients who
have a scar or misshapen pupil who may want to make it less noticeable.
For athletes, Bausch & Lomb's MaxSight
lens is targeted to help enhance sport performance and is a great recommendation
for anyone who partakes in a sporting activity. Most golfers would be willing to
pay a little extra to help improve their score.
Marketing your practice requires establishing different ways
to communicate with patients. You can do this by implementing the following:
current and active Web site.
communication (newsletter, e-mail, thank-you
and point-of-sale items in the office with the
effective and courteous staff.
networking plan (membership in service clubs, civic organizations,
appearances and lecturing.
Proper marketing, education and communication
are all vital to growing your contact lens practice. However, you also need to consider
your presentation. Your office should set the stage for a pleasant experience for
your patients. The environment should be attractive, comfortable, clean and orderly.
Equipment should be complete and up to date; your staff welcoming, professional
and cheerful. Staff should greet the patient with a smile and attend to the patient
in a timely manner. Your contact lens patients will make many visits to your office;
make sure that they have a positive experience each time so they look forward to
returning. Finally, you, their practitioner, should convey an air of confidence
and enthusiasm as an advocate of contact lenses. Be an authority on contact lens
practice, a specialist who advises patients according to a well-informed plan for
their contact lens care.
A Proactive Approach
A more proactive approach to your contact lens
business is essential to increased success. You must be diligent in educating your
patients, your staff, and yourself. Keeping abreast of the latest in technology,
techniques, products and equipment is certainly important, but you must also be
able to communicate and implement those ideas. As a result, your patients will be
happier and your contact lens practice will thrive.
Dr. Grant is in private practice in Costa Mesa,
CA. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, a Cornea and Contact Lens
Section Diplomate and is
currently the Vice Chair of the section. He is an adjunct
associate professor at the Southern California College of Optometry. He also is
a paid consultant for Vistakon and participates in many clinical research studies
for various contact lens and pharmaceutical companies.
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: April 2006