Use Your No. 1 GP Resource: Your Laboratory Consultant
By Edward S. Bennett, OD, MSEd, FAAO
As a consultant to the Contact Lens Manufacturers Association, I am keenly aware of how important the laboratory is to the success of patients who wear GP lenses. The ongoing introduction of innovative new designs for presbyopia, astigmatism, irregular corneas and even spherical applications speaks volumes about the sophisticated manufacturing technology employed by GP laboratories. However, the No. 1 laboratory resource, the consultant, continues to be an underutilized one. Recently, several prominent consultants and laboratory owners (acknowledged at the end of this column) participated in a forum for cornea and contact lens residents during the annual GP Lens Institute (GPLI) Symposium at The Ohio State University College of Optometry. Here are some key takeaways from that forum.
Expertise and Resources
Laboratory consultants are highly trained and have a wealth of experience with every conceivable GP lens design, material and wearer. Whereas challenging cases, such as irregular corneas, may be somewhat are for individual practitioners, lab consultants discuss these types of cases every day. They often can guide the fitting of complex cases via a simple empirical approach aided by high-quality lens designs.
You should remember three facts about consultants: 1) It would be rare for you to have a patient in your chair with a GP challenge the consultant has not managed before. 2) No question is too simple to ask. 3) Their knowledge encompasses all types of GP designs.
Consultants can help simplify the perceived complexity of many tasks, such as choosing the appropriate material. They can recommend a material—and possible alternatives—and explain why it would be referable for a specific patient, whether the need is for hyperpermeability, high wettability or a material that will withstand manufacturing stresses imposed by a complex design.
Laboratories take full advantage of today's technology, and consultants can fill you in on what is available. For example, they can use your topography maps, photographs and videos to customize lenses for your patients, and they routinely upgrade their software, including topography programs for custom lenses.
Consultants can also guide you to GP lens resources. In fact, many laboratories' websites offer comprehensive information, suchas fitting guides, calculators, design nomograms and lists of materialsand their roperties. Many laboratories also offer educational webinars about their new designs. Consultants are also in the know about resources offered by the GPLI (gpli.info) and GP material manufacturers. For example, Bausch + Lomb offers educational booklets on corneal reshaping, keratoconus, presbyopia and scleral lenses.
For practitioners interested in the lens manufacturing process, many laboratories offer tours of their facilities, and at least one (Valley Contax) has a virtual tour on DVD.
Partnership for Success
As GP lens designs continue to improve, practitioners gain more tools to successfully manage a wide variety of patients. Remember that a key component of the formula for GP success is the laboratory consultant. These experts will partner with you, so that your patients experience all of the visual benefits of GP lens wear. CLS
Thanks to Janice Adams (Valley Contax), Erik Anderson and Mike Johnson (Art Optical), Richard Dorer (Blanchard), Mary Ann Kail (Essilor), George Mera (Tru-Form), and Keith Parker (Advanced Vision Technologies) for their assistance with this column.
Dr. Bennett is an associate professor of optometry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and executive director of the GP Lens Institute. You can reach him at email@example.com.