Contact Lens Care & Compliance
The Contact Lens Dispensing Visit, Circa 2011
By Susan J. Gromacki, OD, MS, FAAO
The dispensing or “pick up lens,” visit of today shares few similarities with the one we utilized back in optometry school or early in our careers. The modern version utilizes delegation and maximizes office space utilization to provide an efficient experience for contact lens patients and an improved bottom line for practitioners.
Today's new contact lens wearers (Generations X and Y along with their children) grew up with computers, fast food, and remote controls. The Gen X and Y generations don't view extending the length of the contact lens fitting process to justify fees as an advantage. They are happy to pay for convenience, and expect to receive their contact lenses on the same day as the fitting.
With today's comprehensive trial contact lens sets, it is likely that a patient's base curve and prescription are readily available in-office. Thus, if the staffing permits, today's “dispensing visit” often does take place on the same day as the contact lens fitting.
The second hallmark of the dispensing visit evolution is its complete delegation to a competent ancillary staff member. Of course, this is contingent upon state law and employee skill level.
If a technician is unavailable on the day of the fitting, the technician will place the patient on his own, rather than on the practitioner's, schedule.
Technicians apply the contact lenses and perform the patient history, visual acuity, spherical over-refraction, and contact lens fit evaluation. If the patient needs additional assessment of lens fit, the technician will call the practitioner into the exam room.
The dispensing appointment is typically allotted 30 to 45 minutes; if exceeded, the patient is rescheduled. However, with today's contact lens materials and designs, contact lens application and removal training is easier than ever, and the visit rarely takes that long.
A Multipurpose Room
Lastly, in an effort to better utilize space, many offices have augmented their “dispensing rooms” to include new technology such as a nerve fiber layer analysis system, retinal camera, corneal topographer, auto-refractor, non-contact tonometer, or visual field analyzer.
If space permits, these practices still utilize the contact lens dispensing room for its original purpose, but if not, they have successfully used the optical area, an examination lane, or the pre-testing room for contact lens training. All that is needed is a sink, table, two chairs, a mirror, and good lighting.
Still An Important Encounter
Over the years, many characteristics of the dispensing visit have remained constant: compassionate customer service; thorough contact lens care education; successful lens application and removal; and a comprehensive contact lens agreement/informational handout.
A new contact lens wearer's lasting impression of their contact lenses in general and your office in particular may be determined by this visit. Don't underestimate this visit—no matter where, when, or how it occurs. CLS
Dr. Gromacki is a Diplomate in the Cornea, Contact Lenses, and Refractive Technologies section of the American Academy of Optometry. She is chief research optometrist at Keller Community Hospital in West Point, N.Y.