Motivate Patients to Try GP Contact Lenses
Gas permeable contact lenses provide excellent vision, excellent oxygen transmission, durability and cost effectiveness. So why don't more patients opt to wear them? One reason may be your hesitation to fit them. Another reason may be that patients don't know about GP lenses, whether because you don't mention them or because consumer advertising focuses on hydrogels.
The Adaptation Issue
Another reason that I hear often is that GP lenses aren't as comfortable as soft lenses. I admit that adaptation to GP lenses takes motivation. I know because I've worn them. The first time I ever had a GP lens on my eye, I wanted to claw it back out; but after approximately two to three weeks of wearing them a little bit every day, I liked them better than any soft contact lens I'd ever worn. You see, I have astigmatism, and GP lenses provided vision that was far superior to that with my soft lenses. In addition, my eyes didn't feel as dry at the end of the day with my GP lenses.
Watch Your Language
So how do we get patients motivated to adapt to GP lenses? One way is to avoid four-letter words when describing them to patients. No, not the ones that sent your parents into a frenzy or got your mouth washed out with soap as a child. I mean the words that so many people (patients and practitioners alike) use to describe how a GP lens feels the first time it is applied to the eye.
If you tell a patient that the contact lens is going to hurt initially, that paints a very negative picture of GP lens wear. Even if you just say that it may be painful, the patient will instantly have a negative impression. Many patients use the same words when speaking about GP lenses - particularly if they've first heard them from you or from your staff. I myself am notorious for using the expression lens awareness when presenting GP lenses.
Such negative language and attitude can doom the fit from the start. Instead you need to remember and focus on the many positive aspects of GP lenses. You need to remember that adaptation is temporary and what patients gain once they have adapted. Taking inspiration from my last name, Rah, I've become something of a cheerleader when helping patients adapt to GP lenses.
Consider Topical Anesthetic
Motivational speaking is great, but another successful technique to ease your patients into GP lens wear is the use of topical anesthetic. Bennett et al (1998) reported that using one drop of topical anesthetic before the initial fitting and again before lens application at the dispensing visit helped with GP lens adaptation. I've found this technique beneficial when fitting preteens, adolescents and adults. One reminder: never dispense anesthetic to a patient. One drop at the fitting and another at dispensing is all that's needed.
Using topical anesthetic along with projecting a positive attitude in your initial presentation of GP lenses is a powerful combination. So get out there with your pompoms and megaphone and motivate some patients to try GP contact lenses.
Dr. Rah is an assistant professor at the New England College of Optometry where she works primarily in the Cornea and Contact Lens Service in patient care, teaching and research.
For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references.asp and click on document #136.