Improve Your Contact Lens Practice Image
BY MARY JAMESON, BHS, COA, NCLC, CPOT
We all have concerns about the eye health of patients who order lenses over the Internet and from 800 numbers. How do we emphasize the importance of contact lens care in our day to day practice? Here are a few suggestions to help improve your contact lens practice image.
If you walked into your contact lens dispensing area for instruction on lens application and removal, what would you find? What would be your first impression? Many dispensing areas began as storage areas or available space in an extra exam room. Some dispensing areas are a table in the hallway between the lab and the back offices. Before you start breaking out walls, think of ways to improve the space you have. Move the table and chairs so they are the focal point of the room. Make sure the overall décor of the room is professional. Are the pictures or posters hanging in the area up to date? How much other "stuff" (equipment, etc) is there? Is the equipment used or just stored? Try to find cabinets or someplace for storage that is out of patient view.
Make sure contact lens dispensing supplies are readily available in the dispensing area. Place appropriate hand soap next to the sink in clean soap dispensers. Stock a sufficient amount of paper towels and tissues close by for patients and staff. Nothing is more embarrassing then running out of paper towels after emphasizing the importance of hand washing before handling lenses. (When that happened to us, I told the patient that we enforce this part of the contact lens training so well that it is difficult to keep up the paper towel supply.)
Make sure to keep the dispensing table clean. Wipe off excess solutions after each training visit. If the table is used for other office duties, such as mailings, chart review, etc., remove all ink marks and smudges from the table when you are finished.
When was the last time you reviewed your contact lens policy and procedures information? Look over the material that you give to your contact lens patients. Make sure it is on your most current office stationery. Does your information reflect a policy on mailing lenses to your patients? Is the information sufficient for patient needs? Can you add information that may help alleviate patient questions and telephone inquiries? You could review these materials as part of a staff meeting and incorporate suggestions into new handouts.
Check the Expiration Dates
If you haven't looked lately, check the expiration dates on your lenses, care systems, pharmaceuticals and samples. Rotate your lens inventory, solution inventory, etc., with the upcoming expiration dates to the front. Don't assume that the most recent lenses you received from the lab have the furthest expiration date. The lab's inventory control system may not be accurate.
Solutions and Drops
Make sure that you have fresh solutions on hand for dispensing. Check the dates on artificial tears, lens lubricants and allergy drops. We sometimes receive a large shipment that we don't use before the expiration date. Once again, rotating the inventory so that the product closest to the front of the shelf has the closest expiration date will help prevent this.
These are just a few suggestions for making your office "contact lens user friendly." While we cannot stop all patients from ordering lenses elsewhere, we can do our best to make them think twice before doing so and encourage them to come in for follow-up care.
Ms. Jameson is laboratory supervisor for the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and past chair of the AOA Paraoptometric Section.