Contact Lens Design & Materials
Communicating the Value of New Designs and Materials
BY NEIL PENCE, OD, FAAO
Unlike most months, I will not discuss any new contact lens designs or materials in this column. Rather, I want to share my thoughts on communicating the value of new innovations in contact lenses to patients. After all, a great new product will have little impact if we do not recommend it to our patients and convince them to try it.
Most eyecare professionals learn about new designs or materials either from information or advertisements in industry journals (such as this one), or from presentations by company representatives at meetings or in their office. All of these sources tend to follow a similar format (i.e., they present the properties, parameters, or special features of the new product). This is often referred to as a “Features and Benefits” presentation. While this certainly is a comfortable and familiar format, and perhaps effective for educating professional staff, it may not be the best method to present new products to patients in the examination room.
First Determine What Patients Need
Informing patients of new products in an effective manner is very important. Otherwise, they will not understand why they should try new contact lens or care solution offerings. Often, the most effective presentation technique is to focus on how a recommended treatment or course of action solves a particular problem for the patient. So rather than listing the “features and benefits” of the product, center the discussion around patients’ needs and how this new contact lens or contact lens care product is most likely to meet those needs and solve their problems.
There are a number of ways to identify what patients need and how a new product can satisfy their needs. At times, it will be clear what the needs are from a patient’s entering symptoms and complaints. When this is not the case, the patient interview needs to be probing enough to uncover possible problems such as end-of-day drying or discomfort.
Other clinical problems, such as limbal encroachment or corneal infiltrates, will be revealed during a thorough examination.
Tailor Your Discussion Toward Satisfying Patient Needs
Next, present treatment recommendations based upon the identified patient needs. If glare at night is a patient’s complaint, refrain from describing all aspects of spherical aberration correction, aspheric optics, pupil size, etc. Rather, tell the patient that the optics of some lenses may lessen his problem and that you are prescribing one such lens. If questioning reveals that comfort is an issue, inform the patient that applying a clean, fresh new lens each morning, for example, is intended to address that need.
If you observe limbal engorgement or encroachment during your exam, inform the patient of the problem and then prescribe higher-oxygen-transmitting lenses. Such patients do not need to understand how higher amounts of silicone added to the lens material provide that increased oxygen, they just need to know about the problem and how the lens you’re prescribing can help.
Getting Innovations to Patients
Improved contact lenses and lens care products, with their great new features and benefits, will be of little use unless they make it into the hands of patients. How you present and recommend these products can have a big impact on accomplishing this. If you focus on how the new product solves patient problems or needs, there should be little difficulty convincing patients to act on your recommendations. CLS
Dr. Pence serves as associate dean, Clinical and Patient Services, Indiana University School of Optometry in Bloomington, Ind. He is a consultant or advisor to Alcon and Vistakon and has received travel funding from B+L. You can reach him at email@example.com.