contact lens primer
Take the Time to Teach
BY TIMOTHY B. EDRINGTON, OD, MS, FAAO, & JOSEPH T. BARR, OD, MS, FAAO
With contact lens consumerism at an all-time high (or low, depending on your perspective), it is critical for you and your staff to expend a greater effort in educating your patients about eyecare and eyewear options. If you don't spend the time and effort, your competition will.
Build Patient Loyalty
We want our patients to learn the advantages and disadvantages of contact lens options and refractive surgery procedures from eyecare professionals, not from a television advertisement or infomercial, magazine article or acquaintance. It is important for our patients to feel comfortable contacting us for information. Not only is it important for our bottom line, it is in our patients' best interest.
Eyecare practitioners best understand the patients' specific refractive error, ocular and systemic history and vision needs and how they relate to new products and procedures. The most important place for patient education to occur is in the office, but newsletters and e-mail can be effective communication and education tools that continue to link patients to your practice. You should also keep your patients and community up-to-date regarding the expanding services and new technologies you offer in your practice.
For your patients interested in contact lens correction, educate them about soft and rigid lens designs, providing realistic expectations with each modality and your recommendations, including the rationale for recommended treatment. At the dispensing visit, discuss the appropriate wearing time schedule, problematic signs and symptoms and how patients should respond, lens application and removal, proper care of the lenses and lens case (don't simply refer the patient to the package insert or the instructions on the box), the lens replacement schedule and the rationale for why each one of these instructions is in the patients' best interest. Your office staff should also be trained to reinforce your patient education with a consistent message.
At each follow-up visit, assess the patient's level of happiness (or patient satisfaction for you traditionalists) with his contact lenses. Ask how the patient rates his vision and lens comfort and note responses in the patient file. Also, use the Nordstrom approach by asking if the lenses could be improved in any way.
At the initial follow-up visit and regularly thereafter, ask patients to show you how they take care of their lenses upon lens removal and reapplication. Use a care system kit as a prop. Your personalized concern indicates the importance you place on proper lens care. You may be surprised by the number of both rigid and soft contact lens patients who soak the lenses over-night and clean in the morning.
During these follow-up visits, educate patients regarding the importance of regular eye and contact lens care and the need for current spectacles and appropriate sunglasses. If they feel that nothing was accomplished during a visit, they are less likely to return. Stress to your patients that you have assessed the fit of their lenses and their corneas' response to the lenses at each visit. Provide them with information or new eyecare products. If they are rigid contact lens wearers, polish the front surface and smooth the edge profile, even if the patient is not complaining of lens discomfort. You will be surprised by the number of patients who appreciate the fact that you do not strictly adhere to the "don't fix it if it is not broken" credo.
Dr. Edrington is a professor and chief of contact lens services at the Southern California College of Optometry. E-mail him at tedrington @scco.edu. Dr. Barr is editor of Contact Lens Spectrum and assistant dean of Clinical Affairs at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.