the business of contact lenses
Reinforce Proper Lens Wear During Tough Economic Times
BY GARY GERBER, OD
As I'm writing this article, the Dow is trading right at about 9,600. News stories abound about consumer confidence and spending dipping into record troughs, and economic pundits are recommending that we all hunker down because more financial woes are imminent.
All of this economic doom and gloom, whether deserved or not, makes you wonder how your contact lens patients' wearing patterns will be affected. Wearers might view their entire contact lens experience as a luxury they need to curtail until a brighter economic light begins to shine.
Remember Your Responsibility
It's important for you to remember that, regardless of a patient's economic position, your primary charge is to ensure that he wears his lenses safely. For that reason, don't be afraid to have an open and frank discussion with patients who intimate, "I'm going to stop wearing my lenses for a while because I can't afford it."
First, any experienced fitter already knows that many patients do not have a usable back-up pair of eyeglasses. And, if they really are in a severe economic bind, it's unlikely that ceasing contact lens wear will lead to a purchase of new eyeglasses.
Given the prospect of seeing blurry with out-of-date and most likely out-of-style eyeglasses, patients may decide to forgo previously favorable wearing habits and start to stretch their lens wearing cycles. We know where this will lead them — down the road to dirty lenses, higher risks of problems and poor vision.
Additionally, these same patients are well adapted to the vision benefits with their contact lenses. To have a "hard core" –5.00D lens wearer switch to fulltime eyeglass wear with, say, a –3.50D prescription, is unlikely.
Tough Times Require Tough Talk
So where does this leave you, the person in charge of making sure your patients can see? You aren't your patients' CPA or financial advisor. Therefore, the only thing you can do in a case like this is to reinforce your position on the correct way for them to wear their lenses. Empathy and acknowledgement of their situation from both a refractive and financial perspective can help.
When addressing this with patients, it's helpful to frame their contact lens expenses in relative terms as an incremental expenditure — not as an absolute sum of money — compared to eyeglasses. After all, if patients really stop wearing contact lenses, some added costs will usually be involved to see as well with glasses.
With that in mind, a conversation might go something like this: "Mr. Jones, I understand that you want to temporarily stop wearing your contact lenses and I certainly appreciate the reasons why. As we both know, your eyeglass prescription is out-of-date and the vision with them will be noticeably less than it is with your contact lenses. It would cost $X to get eyeglasses with today's correct prescription. If you get another supply of contact lenses, that will cost $Y. I understand times are tough right now — you'll have to decide which way you want to see. Just remember to make a fair apples-to-apples comparison between up-to-date prescriptions and the quality of vision each will provide."
Don't put this forth to scare patients away from glasses and into contact lenses. That's not your job either! Instead, just lay out the financial and optical facts for patients who want that level of detail and allow them to decide. When done this way, our experience is that most patients will opt to stay with contact lenses and will continue to wear them with the same degree of care they had exercised in the past. CLS
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.