Article Date: 9/1/2006

value of a contact lens patient
Are Contact Lenses And Spectacles Mutually Exclusive?

Your patients may want to wear contact lenses, even if they don't tell you. Here are the strategies this practitioner uses to fulfill patients' needs while keeping their eyes healthy.

Are you taking every opportunity to talk to your spectacles patients about contact lenses ... and vice versa? If you're not, you may be missing an opportunity to build a loyal following and increase your profitability, according to Thomas M. Bobst, OD, a private practitioner in North Olmsted, Ohio.

In fact, a 2-year study by MBA students at the London Business School supports Dr. Bobst's assertion. Their research compared profits and loyalty for eyecare professionals who prescribe spectacles for their patients and those who focus on contact lenses. The students found you can derive more profit and win patient loyalty by offering contact lenses not only to current lens wearers but also to patients who are spectacle wearers and even to those who may have stopped wearing older types of contact lenses due to health or comfort issues.

Given the crisp vision, health benefits and comfort of today's new contact lenses, Dr. Bobst avoids pigeonholing his patients as either contact lens-only or spectacles-only patients. Here's how he and his staff meet the challenge of communicating these benefits quickly and succinctly at every patient encounter.  

HEALTH ABOVE ALL

When it comes to prescribing contact lenses and spectacles, Dr. Bobst and his staff follow their "Golden Rule": Patients need to see good, feel good and look good.

"I place my patients' health above all else, and as an advocate for eye health, I present all the vision correction alternatives," Dr. Bobst says. "Most of my patients are committed to contact lenses. And I am a firm believer that an important component of healthy, comfortable contact lens wear is a quality pair of spectacles as a backup.

"As for my spectacles patients, I'm finding as I really drill down for information, I can answer any questions and make patients comfortable with contact lenses, especially the newer, silicone hydrogels."

Dr. Bobst and his staff use the "Five Zones of Patient Interaction" identified by the London Business School study to reinforce the value of
contact lenses.

ZONE 1: SCHEDULING

As you know, every patient encounter starts before a patient even sets foot in your practice. Dr. Bobst has made a simple adjustment to this initial communication.

"Originally, we asked all our patients if they wear contact lenses simply to facilitate scheduling," he says. "We now use the scheduling call to encourage interest in wearing contact lenses. If a patient says he's not wearing contact lenses, we ask if he's ever wanted to wear them. Frequently, this starts a
conversation about past failures with contact lenses, which we usually can address by discussing the newest technologies, especially silicone hydrogel lenses."

This simple dialogue has resulted in many new contact lens fits for patients who never were asked if they wanted to try contact lenses or, if they were previous wearers, why they stopped.

ZONE 2: RECEPTION

Dr. Bobst's patients don't merely check in when they arrive for their appointments. They learn more about what the practice offers.

"On the front page of our history form, we stamp a little notice about our discount on spectacles purchased on the same day as contact lenses," he says. "We post reminders about the program on placards in the contact lens area. I've also trained my assistants to ask patients about their backup spectacles and to follow up with details on the program."

ZONE 3: PRE-EXAM

Before Dr. Bobst sees a patient, his assistants review the patient's history and tailor their comments to her needs. "For example, they may say, 'Mrs. Smith, Dr. Bobst has some new toric (or bifocal) contact lenses to discuss with you. They are wetter, more comfortable and transmit more oxygen than the older lenses, which is healthier for your eyes,'" he says. "My technicians also talk about their own personal experiences or relate a similar patient's experience with new contact lens technology." Patient health plays a key role in how Dr. Bobst approaches the conversation.

"We discuss comfort issues with each patient," he says. "I find that when I talk about contact lenses, especially the ACUVUE® OASYS™ Brand Contact Lenses with HYDRACLEAR™ PLUS, I get a very positive response from current full-time wearers, part-time wearers and contact lens dropouts. They all want to wear these lenses."

Dr. Bobst has been very successful in converting patients to contact lenses. "With the ACUVUE® OASYS™, I convert about two in 10 patients who have had their spectacles less than 3 years to a spectacles/contact lens combination, mostly because they still have their new spectacles. 

"My conversion rate for patients with spectacles more than 3 years old is about one out of 10. These patients are intrigued by the newer silicone hydrogels, especially the ACUVUE® OASYS™."

ZONE 4: EXAM ROOM

Dr. Bobst's patients expect him to tell them all about the latest contact lens technology, which he is happy to do. "Many times, the first thing a patient will say to me when I come into the exam room is: 'Tell me about these new lenses,'" he says. "I built my practice by using the newest technology, both during exams and in the products I prescribe.

"Because my assistants tailor their discussions to each individual patient before their exams, patients often ask me about the newest technology before I can bring it up. During the exam, I will detail important clinical factors such as UV protection, wettability and oxygen transmissibility. Then I have the patient try a pair on. Once they experience the ACUVUE® OASYS™, it sells itself."

ZONE 5: FITTING AREA AND POST-EXAM

Dr. Bobst offers an annual dispense program, which he feels improves compliance and increases loyalty.

"We actively promote our yearly dispense program, which stresses convenience. Patients don't have to remember to order their lenses every 3 or 6 months, and with direct shipping, they don't have to come to the office to pick them up," he says. "We ship to patients' homes or workplaces when possible. A secondary benefit to shipping to a patient's workplace is that it generates interest among coworkers while making the delivery somehow more special.

"We also stress the economy of a yearly supply using manufacturers' rebates. This is the least expensive way to obtain contact lenses, and we can detail the savings by year and by box."

When he first started the annual dispense program, Dr. Bobst needed to present it to each patient. "But each year, it becomes easier, and now my staff can handle it because the patients already participating almost always continue," he says. "It is worth the chair time to develop these relationships with contact lens patients early on. Now I spend time converting new patients and getting them into yearly lens dispensing.

"I believe part of our success is because the information comes from me first. About 80% of our patients participate in our yearly dispense program."

NO 'TYPICAL' PATIENT

Is there a "typical" contact lens patient? Not in Dr. Bobst's practice. "Each patient has idiosyncrasies consistent with individual contact lens usage," he says. "In a private practice like mine, we focus on the individual patient, whether he's a contact lens patient, a spectacles patient or a combination of the two." Dr. Bobst is finding that the newer contact lens technology, like that of the ACUVUE® OASYS™, is a driving force for his business.

"With the ACUVUE® OASYS™, I have been converting spectacles patients into at least part-time contact lens wear," he says. "The ACUVUE® OASYS™ is the best lens I have ever prescribed for my patients, and they appreciate it. When they get fitted for this lens, they rave about it to their friends. Then those friends come in to see what all the fuss is about. Many of my newer patients tell me their eyecare professional never mentioned the idea of wearing both contact lenses and spectacles. They weren't considered good candidates. But listening to my patients has shown that almost anyone is a candidate."

ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses are indicated for vision correction. Eye problems, including corneal ulcers, can develop. Some wearers may experience mild irritation, itching or discomfort. Lenses should not be prescribed if patients have any eye infection, or experience eye discomfort, excessive tearing, vision changes, redness or other eye problems. Consult the package insert for complete information. Complete information is also available from VISTAKON® by calling
(800) 843-2020 or by visiting Acuvue.com.

Helps protect against transmission of harmful UV radiation to the cornea and into the eye. WARNING: UV-absorbing contact lenses are NOT substitutes for protective UV-absorbing eyewear such as UV-absorbing goggles or sunglasses because they do not completely cover the eye and surrounding area. You should continue to use UV-absorbing eyewear as directed. NOTE: Long-term exposure to UV radiation is one of the risk factors associated with cataracts. Exposure is based on a number of factors, such as environmental conditions (altitude, geography, and cloud cover) and personal factors (extent and nature of outdoor activities). UV-blocking contact lenses help provide protection against harmful UV radiation. However, clinical studies have not been done to demonstrate that wearing UV-blocking contact lenses reduced the risk of developing cataracts and other eye disorders. Consult your eyecare practitioner for more information.



Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: September 2006