Contact Lens Practice Pearls
How to Make Specialty Lenses Your Contact Lens Niche
BY JASON R. MILLER, OD, MBA, FAAO
Take a step back and look at your practice, then ask yourself, “What are my potential business opportunities, and what are my market competitive advantages?” After you answer these, ask yourself, “why do contact lens patients choose me as their eyecare provider?” Determine whether your passion aligns with your market opportunities, and form a strategic plan to grow that niche.
A strategic plan looks at where you are and considers how to get you where you want to go. That means making decisions and providing resources toward that goal.
With regard to specialty contact lenses, the strategic plan includes using newer technologies and even utilizing contact lenses for different indications, such as for myopia control (off-label).
Many patients who have keratoconus, post-surgical complications, corneal irregularities, or a pre-existing corneal condition are looking for someone who can finally fit them successfully. Additionally, newer multifocal, toric, and hybrid lens designs can help us successfully correct higher levels of presbyopia and astigmatism.
Steps to Specialty Lens Success
When developing specialty contact lenses as a niche, consider taking these steps:
Necessary Investments There have been quite a few technological advancements in this area, but, at a minimum, you should consider investing in a corneal topographer, a wide range of diagnostic fitting sets, and an anterior segment camera or imaging device. You also need to invest time into understanding how to fit specialty lenses, including completing any required training or certifications. Make sure to educate yourself on how to change modalities as necessary to improve visual outcomes, such as switching to a large-diameter lens for a severely distorted cornea.
Necessary Staff Training This starts with educating your staff that every single patient is a potential contact lens wearer. During the preliminary testing, have them ask every non-wearer whether they have ever considered contact lenses. Staff should tell patients that contact lenses are a practice specialty and that they can discuss that opportunity with the practitioner. Many of these patients have been told previously that they are not candidates for contact lenses.
Cultivating Referrals The previous steps will help a practice grow from within its patient base, but referrals—such as from ophthalmology offices (especially cornea specialists) and from other eyecare practitioners who don’t specialize in contact lenses—are an alternative way to grow.
Remember, it is very important to provide feedback to your referral sources. Send a letter that explains what you found, what your recommendations are, when you plan on seeing the patient again, and when you are sending the patient back to them. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
Market Opportunities Specialty lenses go beyond managing irregular cornea patients—they also include the corrective potential of newer multifocal and astigmatism correcting lenses. These can create a strong profit center. Some of these patients can be difficult to manage successfully, but they can also be very rewarding.
Keep Up to Date
Specialty lenses are continually advancing and are growing in popularity. From keratoconus to myopia control, it is important to stay up-to-date with the newest technologies available. Being comfortable with the multiple designs and their uses may open your practice to a new group of contact lens wearers. CLS
Dr. Miller is in a partnership private practice in Powell, Ohio, and is an adjunct faculty member for The Ohio State University College of Optometry. He has received honoraria for writing, speaking, acting in an advisory capacity, or research from Alcon, Allergan, CooperVision, and Visioneering Technologies. You can reach him at email@example.com.