Getting Comfortable with Contact Lens Conversations
BY MARY JAMESON, BHS, COA, NCLC, CPOT
"How much are your contact lenses?" is a common question that we hear from patients and potential patients. We've been trained to answer that question with a statement such as, "Depending on your prescription and the type of lens that works best for you, the price may range from X to Z."
It's important for patients to see that you're comfortable discussing contact lens options with them. Take the time to learn the types of lenses and designs (toric, aspheric, bifocal, etc.) that you have in the office and for what type of prescription and patient they work best. The doctor can share this information with the rest of your office in a staff meeting or contact lens company reps can educate both doctor and staff about their company's products.
Know What the Patient Wants
"Have you ever worn contact lenses?" is a standard question in the patient history. "Have you ever tried contact lenses?" or "Would you like to try contact lenses?" are great follow-up questions. You may discover that a patient's previous eyecare practitioner told him that he "can't wear lenses," or that he's "not a good candidate," but the patient would really like to wear them. Follow up by telling the patient about new lens materials and designs that are available and that many patients who weren't good candidates before are wearing lenses now. However, don't make a lens decision at this point because the exam information isn't available. Tell the patient that after the doctor completes the exam you'll further discuss his options.
Many patients drop out of lens wear because of handling problems and comfort issues. If the patient states this as his problem, then find out what the problems were. Many eyecare practitioners never inform patients about care and handling situations and what to do if their vision or comfort decreases. That said, make sure you cover these topics when educating your contact lens patients.
Introducing the Idea of Lenses
As the saying goes, timing is everything. The most appropriate time to talk to a patient about contact lenses is before the doctor conducts the exam. This way the doctor has the opportunity to fit lenses to the patient during this visit. If you wait until after the exam, the patient may be dilated or the doctor's schedule too full to see him that day and the patient will have to reschedule for a fitting. (Such a scenario allows a patient to leave the office with doubts about trying contact lenses.) The goal is to fit the patient while he's interested and while he's in the office.
Don't discourage patients who express an interest in wearing contact lenses. Telling them before they even try the lenses how they'd have to care for them, how often they'd have to visit the office and the symptoms that can occur may overwhelm them and dissolve the enthusiasm they initially had about wearing lenses.
Just Talk to Them
By discussing contact lens options with your patients, you're providing them with a service rather than "selling" to them. You're the eyecare professional. Many patients receive little information about contact lenses and most of what they do know about them they learn from their own experience or from friends and family. Advertising on television and in magazines doesn't provide much information either.
In talking to your patients about contact lens options, answering their questions and giving them information they didn't have, you just may transform a possible contact lens wearer into a life-long patient.
Ms. Jameson is laboratory supervisor for the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and is a past chair of the AOA Paraoptometric Section.