The Business of Contact Lenses
Dropout? Tune in to Issues and Turn on Your Lens Patients
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Overall growth in the contact lens market has been nearly flat for many years. The usually quoted reasons for this are discomfort (dryness) and presbyopia. While there is no question that we have better products than ever before to combat discomfort and presbyopia, all practices still experience contact lens patient attrition. For the industry as a whole, the number of new wearers closely resembles the number of dropouts. While that sentiment is industry wide, it’s time to ask “What’s happening in my practice?”
You can probably query your practice management software to see how many new contact lens patients you saw in 2013, but have you ever measured how many drop out? What would you do with this information?
Defining a Dropout
Someone who stops wearing lenses entirely certainly warrants being put into this category. But, what about someone who, because of end-of-day discomfort, only wears his lenses for a few hours on weekends instead of seven days per week? Is he a dropout?
There isn’t a single definition; what matters is how you choose to define it and what system is in place to measure your dropout rate. But once you have the definition, you need to accept the cold reality that nearly all patients who drop out will do so without telling you. They may come to your office in an attempt to sharpen their presbyopic vision and leave seemingly happy. Yet three months into lens wear, they may decide that the vision they have is as good as it’s going to get—and it isn’t good enough. Therefore, unbeknownst to you, they stop wearing lenses.
Next, establish what you consider is an acceptable time for an easy, asymptomatic, straightforward-fit patient to return for ongoing care, then benchmark all patients against that idealistic benchmark. For example, you might believe it’s clinically appropriate for these patients to have a comprehensive exam at least once a year. From there, record how many of your patients do (or do not) come back during that time period and use those numbers to look for trends.
For example, you may find that 40% of your easy-fit, asymptomatic, happy patients return about every 12 months. As you look through recall reports for patients who did not return when they were supposed to, you might notice that an inordinate amount of patients wearing Brand X lenses did not come back at 12 months. Put procedures in place to work with your recall system to collect information from these patients. In addition to simply recalling them, contact them after they pass your ideal benchmark time frame to find out exactly why they haven’t returned. Reasons could include lenses that encourage patient noncompliance to lenses that provide worsening vision with increased wear. If you start to see patterns, proactively address them.
Like all consumers, patients vote with their feet more often than with their mouths. If they’re not happy with your practice or their contact lenses, they won’t call to tell you; they just won’t come back. Diligently and proactively investigate why they are leaving, then take steps to resuscitate those patients and prevent any future ones from leaving.
When the patients are on the phone explaining why they have dropped out, encourage them to return to resolve problems that are easily fixed—that they thought would require a major overhaul and possible refit. You also should alert them to new technologies or lens care products. CLS
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.