contact lens economics
BY WALTER D. WEST, OD, FAAO
recently participated in a debate in a professional forum about the purported imminent demise of the RGP industry. My opponent produced all sorts of graphs and statistics showing the decline of RGP usage world wide. He touted industry "experts" who claim that within a few years, all contact lenses will be some variance of soft lenses.
I did not have any graphs or statistics. My initial response to his claim was this: Statistics are a mathematical representation of both historical data and present trends and thus may be used to predict future trends. We have the ability to reverse those trends and start an upward growth of the RGP industry.
Yes, RGP usage has declined for spherical and low-cylinder prescriptions. With the proliferation of quality disposable soft
torics, many practitioners opt for the perceived ease of fit of these lenses over
RGPs. Patients come in requesting soft lenses, and practitioners tend to comply with their requests. However, by presenting the features and benefits of rigid lenses, these same practitioners could proactively be prescribing and fitting more rigid designs.
Why to Fit More RGPs
If you fit relatively few
RGPs, there are several reasons for increasing the use of rigid lenses in your practice. First and foremost, rigid lenses provide absolutely the best optics for many astigmatic and presbyopic patients. While soft torics and soft bifocals have improved greatly over the past decade, they still cannot compare optically with rigid designs. Often, practitioners and patients suffer frustration over a prolonged soft lens fitting for challenging prescriptions that could be easily solved with a rigid design.
Secondly, RGPs provide the most custom designed contact lenses available to your practice. You can, in fact, custom design RGP specifications for each patient if you so desire. Some practitioners will use a set of design parameters with their general RGP patients; the laboratory knows which material, edge design, secondary curves, blends, etc. the practitioner wants.
Thirdly, by providing such custom-designed, optically superior lenses to your patient population, you further strengthen the bonds between your patients and your practice. Patients who receive this type of personalized care and materials are much less likely to obtain future care elsewhere.
Help From the Industry
The RGP industry is well aware of the decline in the "easy" RGP fits and responded by bringing us superior materials, innovative and practice-friendly programs and new technologies. A number of superb RGP multifocals are available to us now for the ever-increasing population of baby boomer
presbyopes. Technology has brought us the reverse geometry lenses that are a necessity for many post- refractive surgery fits.
By better educating yourself about RGP fitting, you will feel more comfortable about proactively prescribing it for your patients. By this proactive prescribing, your contact lens practice will continue to grow and thrive in a highly profitable way.
Dr. West practices in Brentwood, TN, and lectures nationally and internationally on contact lens and practice management
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: June 2002