Reader and Industry Forum
Be Proactive to Switch Patients to Daily Disposable Lenses
BY SAM WINNEGRAD, MBA
Daily disposable lenses have continued to grow in popularity. The convenience of no lens care means that patients are more apt to discard them every day, which makes them healthier for patients and more profitable for the practice. Daily disposables also offer many other advantages including less chair time and fewer follow ups.
There is, however, one drawback: many patients do not want to abandon their two-week and monthly replacement lenses. We all know that most people are resistant to change; however, this is especially true when the change results in perceived added expenses to their already recession-sapped budget.
In addition, many practitioners reserve the daily disposable modality for occasional lens wearers: the little league star whose eyeglasses fog, or the night-out-on-the-town mom who doesn’t want to wear her glasses on date night—right?
The eyecare industry is set on changing these out-dated perceptions, releasing new daily disposable lenses faster than ever before. Using targeted marketing to reach all demographics and lifestyles, the inherent value of increased comfort and better overall corneal health is a message that is breaking through to the public. Now, with lower prices reflecting the increased supply to the market, we should expect more patients to buy in—but can we convince them to make the switch?
Change Your Approach
The marketing materials and mail-in rebates displayed throughout your practice are nice, but they alone will not convince patients to make the switch to daily disposables. Eyecare professionals must be premeditated, present options, and connect with patients on a level that transcends surface-level conversation.
No two patients are exactly alike, and daily disposable contact lenses are not for everyone. Habitual offenders, or those sleeping in the contact lenses that they borrowed from their best friend’s cousin because they see pretty well out of them, probably should not be wearing contact lenses at all. On the other end of the spectrum are the loyal, admirable patients who return for their annual exams, purchase a year’s supply, track their wearing schedule, then call a month before their prescription expires to set up their annual appointment. These are patients who genuinely care about their eye health, who are seeking a better option, and who are ready for daily disposable lenses.
Using logical arguments—“If you add up the cost of all of the contact lens cases and bottles of multipurpose solution that you will buy this year, you are actually saving money by switching to daily disposables,”—might not be effective. This is especially true considering that most of your patients are not changing their contact lens case every month, are not using fresh care solution every day, and are not changing their lenses according to their proper wear schedule. So while you are telling patients about daily disposables, your patients are probably thinking “I bet those lenses would cost me a fortune to change them every day.”
Similarly, scare tactics—“You are less likely to suffer from a corneal ulcer” and “Your current lenses are putting you at a greater risk of hypoxia and neovascularization”—are ineffective and do not really address patients’ most blatant concern...cost.
Instead, speak to the unmatched comfort of daily disposable lenses as well as all of the positive eye health benefits and the convenience of no lens care.
Don’t Be Afraid to Offer the Daily Disposable Option
Are you afraid to introduce daily disposable lenses to your patients because they may think you are pushy or just looking to make another dollar? Why rock the boat if your patients are doing well with their current modality? Though fear is a healthy response mechanism, keeping us rational and safe, too much fear can let opportunities slip through our hands and stagnate growth.
The truth is that most patients prefer it when their eyecare practitioner presents new options to them. They see the contact lens commercials and read the advertisements that promote contact lenses in magazines, so many of them already know that other options are available. Most patients are genuinely flattered to be offered a new lens possibility. This shows that you are acting as their advocate and not merely as one who is interested in only capturing their exam fee. You know that you are looking out for their best interest, so why let fear of patients’ perceptions dictate how you want to run your practice?
Your patients will not defect to the practitioner down the street because you fit them with a different lens, but they might leave if you never give them any options. All too often, patients will comment that they are unsatisfied with their practitioner because they didn’t get to try the contact lenses that they wanted (even if they never expressed interest in them during the examination). So spend enough time with your patients to cover various options. Let them compare the lens that they have loved dearly ever since the fifth grade with a newer, healthier daily disposable variety.
Tell them that you are interested in knowing what they think about the differences in comfort and convenience. This will empower your patients and let them feel that they are an integral partner in the lens fitting process. Those who refrain from switching to daily disposable lenses will rest confident in knowing that you enabled them to make that decision; those who find a new convenience in daily disposables will view you as a proactive, considerate practitioner. Both options turn out well for your practice.
Get Your Staff on Board
It is hard to sell high-quality eyeglasses that have progressive lenses while using cheap dollar store readers to complete the order. In the same respect, your patients might not switch to a daily disposable if your office staff is still wearing polymethyl methacrylate lenses. Make no mistake, your staff members will field questions regarding the contact lenses that they wear. Conversely, staff members who are wearing comfortable, optically stable contact lenses will use positive, often unsolicited conversation to let your patients know how great their lenses are. It is difficult to fake the type of enthusiasm that usually comes with discussing the sharp optics of their comfortable contact lenses.
Train your office staff so that they are not only aware of, but can also speak well of, the benefits associated with daily disposables. This should translate to a solid return on investment.
Be Proactive During Follow up
Make certain that your office adheres to strict follow-up procedures with all contact lens patients. Use the follow up to not only ensure that your patients are properly fit, but also to once again engage patients and to present daily disposables as an alternative lens. This can be effective both with patients who are pleased with their new prescription and with those who are still seeking a better option. Imagine the surprise on your patients’ face when they seem satisfied with their current lenses, but you are still concerned enough about them to offer what you feel is a better option. This may add to chair time, but your patients will remember how considerate and involved you were during their exam and fitting process, and they will tell others about it. Word of mouth still serves as the best impetus for growth. Our culture is bathed in a social media obsession; it is more important than ever to understand the implications of positive word of mouth.
It’s up to You
Discerning the reasons why your patients are not switching to daily disposables can be a difficult task. Regardless of the reasons, don’t just wait for your patients to start demanding daily disposables, because that likely will not happen.
Instead, allow proactive and intentional business decisions to dictate your future within the daily disposable market. CLS
Sam Winnegrad instructs for the Opticianry program at Roane State Community College. He is also a Vision Center Manager for Wal-Mart. He is both NCLE and ABO certified and holds his master’s degree in business administration.