Understanding the Value of Contact Lens Wearers

Understanding the Value of Contact Lens Wearers

Contact lens wearers represent a valuable portion of many of our practices. Unfortunately, even with all of the new technologies available to our contact lens wearers, we've done very little to increase the number of contact lens wearers in the United States. A recent Nielson study1 showed that about 10% of the contact lens wearing pool of about 31.1 million wearers will drop out of contact lenses. Fortunately, this pool of wearers is replenished with those who are new to contact lens wear or those who've dropped out in the past but are attempting to wear contact lenses again.2

Interestingly, when those who dropped out were asked why, more than 50% indicated dryness and discomfort.3 The remaining patients reported various reasons, including the cost of contact lenses, the option to have LASIK surgery and a belief that contact lenses didn't meet their visual needs. Despite all of the factors that may contribute to discontinuing lens wear, dryness and discomfort always seem to be the top reasons.

A study by Nichols4 found that more than half of patients wearing contact lenses report having comfort issues. This rate is strikingly similar to those who drop out of contact lenses. When attempting to keep patients in contact lenses, discomfort is certainly an issue that's worthy of close attention.


Keeping patients comfortable in their contact lenses is of significant value. When compared with their spectacle-wearing counterparts, we see contact lens wearers much more frequently. Because of more frequent interactions with contact lens wearers, more professional fees will be collected over a lifetime. Clinicians can generate additional revenue through the sale of contact lenses.

It's been demonstrated that practices that embrace contact lens wearers — by reducing dropouts and continually attempting to increase the number of new wearers — see significant financial benefits over practices that don't embrace the contact lens wearer.5 By simply considering professional fees and contact lens material sales per patient over a 5-year period, the difference in potential revenue could be up to two times more in proactive practices.

We need not forget that in addition to wearing contact lenses, contact lens wearers also need spectacles and sunglasses. They require additional medical services. Offering these three fundamental services will bring additional value to your contact lens-wearing patients.

In 2006, Ritson6 published results comparing the lifetime value of a contact lens wearer to a patient who only wears spectacles. Ritson found that eyeglass wearers are likely to be more profitable to an eyecare practice in a single transaction; however, contact lens wearers are much more profitable over a lifetime. He summarizes his results and the reason for his conclusion in the following points:

  • Practitioners will begin to see that the profit contribution of contact lenses initially is lower, but eventually becomes greater than that of spectacles alone.
  • They'll begin to move their business model from one that focuses on a single transaction to one that builds long-term, recurring relationships with patients.
  • Practitioners will begin to realize the additional selling advantages of longer-term relationships with contact lens patients as they purchase spectacles and sunglasses in addition to more contact lenses during repeat visits.
  • The final advantage occurs as long-term, satisfied contact lens patients recommend their practitioner to other potential patients.

It's clear that contact lens wearers will add significant profitability to a typical eyecare practice. If you remember this and understand that patients want to stay in their contact lenses, then you�ve found a winning combination to build your practice.

Many of the dropouts we see are due to dryness and discomfort issues, but if we treat underlying disease that can compromise comfortable wear and work to understand new care systems, we'll have the tools we need to minimize discomfort in our lens wearers. This ultimately will lead to healthier and happier patients and a more profitable practice. CLS


  1. AC Nielsen Household Panel. Consumer Surveys. Alcon Estimates. 2005.
  2. Morgan PB, Efron N, Maldonado-Codina C, Efron S. Adverse events and discontinuations with rigid and soft hyper Dk contact lenses used for continuous wear. Optom Vis Sci. 2005;82:528-535.
  3. Young G, Veys J, Pritchard N, Coleman S. A multi-centre study of lapsed contact lens wearers. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2002;22:516-527.
  4. Nichols JJ, Ziegler C, Mitchell GL, Nichols KK. Self-reported dry eye disease across refractive modalities. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2005;46:1911-1914.
  5. Brujic M, Miller J. The business of contact lenses. Review of Cornea & Contact Lenses. January 2008;37-40.
  6. Ritson M. Which patients are more profitable? Contact Lens Spectrum. March 2006;38-42.