The Business of Contact Lenses
The Benefits of In-Office Studies for Your Practice
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Your sales rep visit on Tuesday goes something like this: “Studies show that 95% of patients found our lens, brand A, more comfortable than brands B or C.” On Wednesday, a rep from another company says, “Studies show that 95% of patients found our lens, brand B, more comfortable than brands A or C.” And, if you’re paying attention, then you already know what happens on Thursday. Yes, lo and behold, you are “shocked” to find that patients really prefer brand C!
With this familiar scenario playing out in offices all the time, how can you know for certain which of the three lenses really is more comfortable, and why does it matter that you find out?
The Power of Social Proof
Of course, the easiest way to determine which lens has the best comfort is to try them all on your own patients and see what they report back. That’s generally what most of us already do, just not in a formal study like what the three company reps presented.
But, what if you did do a comfort study on your own? What benefit would it have to your patients and practice? Using the concept of social proof and consensus—which means that patients can be influenced by the behavior or actions of others—an in-office study can yield significant practice-building dividends.
Few of us would introduce a new lens to a patient and say, “This is new lens A, and studies show that 95% of patients find it to be more comfortable than other lenses.” Part of the reason is that we don’t want to be wrong and make uncomfortable patients feel like outliers. Additionally, many of us are skeptical of clinical claims and instead use our own patients to decide whether we favor a lens or not.
But nearly all of us would be proud to say, “This is new lens brand A, and studies that we’ve done here in our office show that 95% of our own patients prefer this lens to other lenses.”
The key differences here are that when you invest the time and energy into your own in-house study, your presentation to patients will be more credible and certainly will come across as more sincere. In addition, patients are impressed by in-office studies. Practitioners participating in studies are perceived as early adopters who are on the forefront of contact lens breakthroughs.
Finally, in-office studies can help you upgrade more patients to better lenses; when you tell patients that other patients in your own practice, patients who are local and from the same demographic, prefer lens X over lens Y, social proof and consensus kick in. This can be especially valuable for patients who are hesitant to even try a new lens, let alone immediately switch to a new one.
“Of all the patients in our practice who were wearing your current lens and tried this new lens, 91% found it more comfortable than what you’re wearing. Would you like to try them?”
This strategy to move patients into newer and better lens modalities might seem manipulative. I see it as supportive of patients’ best interests because you’re taking the time to develop your own clearer, credible picture rather than relying on data from others. This doesn’t imply that industry data is flawed or skewed. Rather, this approach allows you to validate in a more formal manner which lens your patients prefer.
Putting It into Practice
While perhaps not a purely scientific approach that would be accepted in a peer-reviewed journal, using qualitative online surveys (such as Zoomerang or SurveyMonkey) can be a means to quickly and affordably compile data, especially around qualitative assessments like comfort. 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.