There is a very simple reason why you should prescribe more single day disposable contact lenses: they are the best. If you asked a large sample of optometrists what type of contact lens they think is best, with cost not a factor, a huge percentage would say daily disposables. That is certainly what I would say. In spite of that very positive point of view, optometrists see thousands of contact lens patients every day who are about to buy more lenses and the vast majority don't bring up daily throw-aways. It makes no sense at all. I guess we're just too timid to say what we believe.
An analogy that hits home
As I step back and look at our typical contact lens prescribing habits, I must conclude that we don't practice what we preach. We try to train our staff members to never prejudge our patients and what they think they can afford. We tell opticians to always present the best products first. Start with the high-end frames. Recommend premium lenses with the best AR, high-index and digital surfacing. If the optician were to say that the patient was doing fine with his old type of lens and there is no need to even discuss the newest lens options, most practice-owning ODs would have a problem with that.
I believe this approach that we urge our staff to follow is well placed. We shouldn't prejudge what we think a person can afford. We should offer the best eye care possible. If the patient has a budget problem, he'll let us know and we can find a more economical option, but we can't hit a home run if we don't even swing the bat.
The doctor's domain
Why should everything change just because the product is now contact lenses instead of glasses? Or just because the doctor is interacting with the patient and not an optician? Does the OD degree confer some ability to know the patient's financial condition? There was a best-selling book a few years ago called "The Millionaire Next Door". The premise was that you really can't tell a person's financial condition by appearance. In fact, the ones who try to look like they're wealthy often are not and the guy wearing the overalls might very well be.
I think many of us ODs have an inferiority complex and we fear rejection! We presume the patient won't want to pay slightly more for contacts, when in reality, many would happily pay more in order to have:
The convenience of never having to clean lenses or bother with them at the end of the day.
Much better comfort all day.
Ability to leave contacts in a few hours longer each day.
Whiter, healthier looking eyes.
Fewer allergic symptoms.
Ease of low cost replacement lenses and spares on hand in every situation.
Not having to purchase lens care products.
Our professionalism hurts us
I think we are often so professional and so afraid of being perceived as selling a product that we become too conservative. We let the patient down by not being forthright with what we think. Daily disposable lenses are actually better than other modalities in many respects, but ODs often don't even touch on the subject.
I think we miss the biggest opportunity when we tend to not change a patient's lens type if they have no complaints. We all see many of these patients every day. Rather than giving the patient something new and better, we tend to leave them in their old brand and design. It is certainly safe and it may help you get finished faster, but is that the goal? If you step up and recommend the best, you will make patients happier, create more reasons for referrals and increase revenue and profitability.
We've all had that case where we tried really hard to give the patient a great improvement in their vision with some change (in prescription, ophthalmic lens type, contact lens material, or whatever) only to have the patient prefer what they had before. Maybe we are so sensitive to that possibility that we shut down and just play it safe. I hope not. I'd like to think we can snap out of it and take a stand.
How to present daily disposables
I love the Mark Twain quote: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything!" That is exactly the case with daily lenses; just tell the truth with confidence and enthusiasm. Act excited about them; don't act bored and serious.
Tell the patient that the best contact lens on the market is a daily disposable. Talk about comfort and clear, healthy eyes.
Have enthusiasm when you say... "Many of my patients tell me they can't even tell they have lenses on!"
Connect with the patient. What do you know about the person in your chair? Does he play sports? Does she like to swim? Does he have allergies? Does she have dry eyes? Does he travel frequently?
Make it easy to try them. Offer a free trial without a lot of testing and bother.
If the patent mentions the cost, just agree with him. But also mention the savings on lens care products, which is more money than one thinks.
I would not prescribe the lowest priced daily disposable; I'd prescribe the best one. The most comfortable one.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week