The Laboratory Consultant: Your Best Friend in GPs
The GP contact lens consultant is vital to the success of any contact lens practice. The role of this underutilized resource has evolved over the past 10 years. Although lens designs and manufacturing processes have improved, the time devoted to evaluating fitting problems has decreased. Consultants now have more responsibility for a successful fit without the benefit of seeing the lens on the eye. The primary reasons for this pertain to their knowledge and experience.
A Knowledgeable Resource
Most practitioners don't consider themselves GP specialists. Therefore, consultants are the vital link between practitioners and industry advancements. Consultants know more about the selection and applicability of their products than anyone. They also understand lens design geometry and how it may apply to a patient's needs.
Certainly an area of much interest to practitioners pertains to selecting a GP lens material. Consultants can cut through the maze and provide you with a specific (or a few specific) material(s) that would meet the needs of a given patient, factoring in such characteristics as oxygen permeability, surface wettability and specific gravity.
Perhaps the area in which consultants benefit practitioners most pertains to specialty designs, especially multifocals. They can assist with design selection (every GP laboratory has multifocal/ other specialty designs listed at www.gpli.info), fitting, problem-solving and providing diagnostic lens fitting sets.
Likewise, with increasing use of corneal topography to assist in GP specialty fits, many laboratories are set up to assist practitioners in interpreting the maps and making recommendations. Many consultants are familiar with the software and pertinent data from multiple topographers, and these data are influential in choosing a specific design.
Vast Design Experience
Obviously a consultant's knowledge is closely associated with his experience. A consultant is a walking encyclopedia of fitting scenarios who is able to solve many fitting challenges. Certainly, a good consultant will complement the knowledge and experience of the practitioner. However, it's important to emphasize that the laboratory consultant often provides a second
opinion based upon the experience of designing thousands of lenses for similar patients. This is especially valuable with more challenging fits (often post-surgical/irregular corneas).
It's unlikely that a practitioner will present a challenging patient that the consultant hasn't already managed at least once, if not often. Experience comes from repetition, and the laboratory consultant experiences every day what some practitioners see once or twice in their lifetime.
A Winning Combination
In my role as a consultant to the Contact Lens Manufacturer's Association (CLMA), I commonly hear that practitioners are fearful of exhibiting their ignorance about GP lenses to a consultant. In fact, it's evident that in the mind of a trained consultant, there's no such thing as a stupid question.
Use your consultants. With their knowledge of lens materials and various design options, they can use the properties of these materials in combination with their experience and knowledge to help provide custom lens fits that will enhance your reputation and build your practice.
Acknowledgments: Dan Bell (Corneal Design), Cindy Belliveau, (Visionary), Steve Ernst (Contex), Sherre McMahon (Firestone), Greg Ogden (Soderberg), Keith Parker (Advanced Technologies) and Kevin Sanford (Conforma)
Dr. Bennett is an associate professor of optometry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is executive director of the GP Lens Institute.