In his MBA course, the late Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen would share a story of a popular restaurant chain that enlisted his help to determine how to increase milkshake sales. Professor Christensen’s research revealed that milkshakes fulfilled a very specific job for early morning commuters: it satiated them without interfering with the act of driving. This unexpected insight was never revealed by several focus groups of consumers. Milkshakes appear to do a better “job” compared to donuts, bagels, bananas, and other common treats in filling up drivers on their way to work without much hassle. His research team discovered this by asking buyers, “What job are you hiring that milkshake for?” Christensen popularized this as “jobs-to-be-done” marketing, which emphasizes the important difference between determining a service’s function and its job.

When embracing the specialty of myopia management, it is critical to ask the question “What ‘job’ do our patients hire us to fill when they enlist in our orthokeratology program?” Most practitioners would answer: to correct vision while patients sleep or to slow down myopia progression. But in our experience, these assumptions don’t address many of the critical needs of parents who desire myopia management for their children. As Dr. Christensen stated: “About 95 percent of new products fail. The problem often is that their creators are using an ineffective market segmentation mechanism. It’s time for companies to look at products the way customers do: as a way to get a job done.”

What Patients Really Need

Patients in our exam chair often share much more than the quality of their eyesight. They share stories about their kids, pets, life challenges, or perhaps a deeply held fear of vision loss. They’re not hiring us to just perform a thorough eye exam—that’s assumed! The job that they’re often asking us to fill is that of a trusted friend who happens to be a healthcare provider.

A large portion of my multi-disciplinary practice is devoted to orthokeratology; we see patients interested in managing their myopia four days per week and have done so since 2002. Over the years, we’ve come to realize that parents “hire” us to help them address their conscious and unconscious guilt associated with their child’s progressing degree of myopia. Now that myopia management is in our profession’s forefront, it’s important for clinicians to understand the mindset of parents who are interested in managing myopia. Clinicians would therefore be misguided if they felt that the job they’re filling is only to correct vision safely or to attempt to slow myopia progression. These are minimum expectations of patients seeking our care.

Parents require more. They have questions about their children’s visual hygiene, the lighting and posture that their children use while reading, concerns about the pressure that the academic load places on their children’s eyesight, and screen time and its effect on their children. In short, the job that they’ve asked us to fill is not eyesight correction, but rather to address their questions patiently, honesty, and consistently.

Go Beyond Vision

If you want to grow your orthokeratology practice, know the job you’re asked to fill. Doing so will help you transition from dabbling to specializing in this career-enhancing specialty. As Professor Christensen taught, if you learn to do so, you will be much more successful in developing your target market. If you don’t, you’ll have the burden of fitting only a few patients every year and not leveraging your talents into fulfillment. CLS