How Should We Handle FCLCA? Prescribe GP Lenses
BY EDWARD S. BENNETT, OD, MSED
The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) has sent shockwaves through the contact lens practitioner community. This law changes how most of us conduct our contact lens practice and may greatly impact the benefits you derive from your lens replacement business.
Why should you allow the FCLCA to affect you in this way? Why couldn't you turn a negative into a positive? You can by prescribing GP lenses. In answering a survey, many members of the GP Lens Institute Advisory Committee stated, "I've never had one patient obtain his GP contact lenses outside of my office."
Many practitioners fear communicating the FCLCA to patients who, like us, are consumers. However, an educated patient is unlikely to use an alternative distribution source -- especially if you prescribe GP lenses.
Patients are entitled to their prescriptions, especially when they're traveling. Also, providing patients with this information can represent an opportunity to discuss what's included in a prescription, why one lens material may be preferable to another and to explain a GP lens design.
Explain to patients that GP lenses promote eye health because of their high oxygen flux, high amount of tear exchange and debris removal and because they minimize peripheral infiltrate formation. Likewise, fewer lens-induced red eyes and other compli cations exist with GP lens wear.
Patients also look for value, and studies have shown that GP lenses provide the best value. Although GP lenses may be more expensive initially, they're actually less expensive over time.
Explain to patients the variations among different lens products and why price differences exist. Also, keep lens fees competitive while charging appropriately for professional fees. Tell patients that your professional fees for GP lenses include the fitting process, verification, patient education, all follow-up visits and any lens exchanges or modifications during this period.
GP lenses have custom designs that alternative distributors have difficulty reproducing. GP patients benefit most when the prescribing practitioner controls lens fabrication.
Unlike many soft lenses, you don't create a GP prescription at the fitting visit, nor should you provide it to the patient at this time. You derive the prescription once you dispense the final lens design and subsequently find it successful. Scott Kenitz, OD, believes that after a successful trial fitting and appropriate follow-up visits over several weeks, a patient can choose to return his "trials" to the office and find another source for his lenses if he desires.
It's important to thoroughly specify the parameters if the patient chooses to go elsewhere for lenses. If you provide only minimal parameters, then the resulting lenses can impact the lens-to-cornea relationship and eventual success of GP lenses.
Seize the Opportunity
The FCLCA presents a tremendous practice-building opportunity for GP fitters. GP patients have increased loyalty to their practitioners and they don't view GP lenses as a commodity product of little value. According to Doug Benoit, OD, "In the long run, where patients obtain their lenses is not as important as whether they return for proper professional care. GP patients just don't seem to stray."
The author acknowledges Dan Bell and Drs. Doug Benoit, Robert Davis, Art Epstein, Patricia Keech, Scott Kenitz and John Rinehart for their contributions to this column.
Dr. Bennett is an associate professor of optometry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is executive director of the GP Lens Institute.