Article Date: 3/1/2002

contact lens economics
Don't Confuse Your Patients: Keep Explanations Clear
BY GARY GERBER, OD

My cell phone rang as I was leaving my office. It was my wife. "Can you stop at the store on your way home and pick up a dozen eggs? Make sure to get the large ones." Simple enough, I thought. Even though I travel a lot and am rarely called upon to carry out these sorts of requests, I surely felt up to this easy task. After all, how hard could it be to buy a dozen eggs ­ uh, I mean a dozen LARGE eggs? As I confidently approached the egg section in the grocery store, I was about to learn how hard it could be.

Jumbo. Extra large. Super size.

Those were my choices. There were no eggs meeting my wife's exacting specifications of "large." Now in a panic and with all confidence lost, I held my breath as I bravely reached for the jumbo eggs in the hope they were the correct ones. Humbled, and realizing how little I know about eggs, I drove home.

Segue to Your Office

"Mrs. New Wearer, the lenses I will fit you with today will be daily disposables," I said.

"That sounds fine," said Mrs. New Wearer. "I think my third cousin on my brother-in-law's side wears those, and he likes them. Which solution will I use to take care of my new lenses?"

"You won't need any," I said. "They're daily disposable."

"But my cousin wears the same ones. He puts them on in the morning, takes them off at night and puts them in a case with solution. He puts on a new pair every two weeks. He wears them every day and not overnight. You know, DAILY disposables ­ he wears them daily!"

What's in a Name?

We are a profession wrought with convoluted nomenclature: monovision, extended wear, continuous wear, frequent replacement. Super size extra large jumbo eggs.

When explaining modalities to patients, be as descriptive as possible to avoid confusing banter like you just read above. What I should have said was, "I will be fitting you with single use, daily disposable lenses."

Similarly, tell your patients wearing the new breed of overnight silicone hydrogel lenses that they are for "30 days of continuous wear." Do not say they are "extended" wear or just "30-day lenses." Instead of "frequent" or "planned" replacement, let patients know exactly how frequent or planned. For example, "daily wear one month replacement lenses" is more descriptive and more easily understood than "monthly lenses."

Our patients, particularly those new to contact lenses, are not experienced in the ophthalmic vernacular. Reduce any possible tensions they might have about entering their new visual world by making your explanations as patient friendly as possible. Switching from glasses to contact lenses should be an enjoyable, fulfilling and rewarding experience, not an overwhelming, apprehensive and confusing one.

For those totally unschooled in the new language of modern vision care, as I was ignorant in the language of groceries, not having a full understanding of what is happening can lead to fear, rejection of the modality and eventually non-compliance with your directions.

Avoid this by speaking in a language your patients understand. Connect with your patients early on in the fitting process, and they will appreciate your efforts to meet them on their own terms. They will go home with their lenses not only with good vision and a good fit, but also with a good sense of what is expected of them. They will take more ownership of the fitting and lens wear when they understand them both.

(By the way, the eggs were fine. Lucky guess.)

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice ­ a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. He can be reached at 800-867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.

 


Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: March 2002