Article Date: 6/1/2008

Upgrade Your Contact Lens Patients
contact lenses

Upgrade Your Contact Lens Patients

Here are three tips that may enable you to switch your patients from their old-generation lenses into new designs.

ELISE BRISCO, O.D., F.A.A.O., Los Angeles, Calif.

Many doctors shy away from offering "new technology" lenses — meaning those that have non-ionic surfaces, highly wettable materials, high-oxygen transmissibility and sun protection — to patients for two reasons:

1. Fear that the patient, forced to pay a greater out-of-pocket cost for new lenses than their older-generation lenses, will think of the practitioner as a salesman rather than a doctor and seek their eye care elsewhere.

2. An assumption that the patient isn't willing to pay more.

The bottom line: If the patient could benefit from a "new technology" lens, you could be doing that patient a disservice by not mentioning it. Why? Because he depends on your expertise and knowledge in eye care to provide him with the best care available.

Something else to consider: Should the patient hear about a "new technology" lens from a family or friend who has a similar ocular problem or prescription, instead of from you, the patient may assume that you're antiquated, out of touch or that you simply don't care enough to inform him of the latest technology. This, in turn, will likely prompt the patient to leave you for his family member or friend's practitioner.

The following three tips may allow you to upgrade your patients into "new technology" lenses, so you can enhance their lens-wear experience, thereby creating patient loyalty to your practice while increasing your practice revenue.

1 Educate prior to the appointment

Optometrist Scott A. Jens, of Middleton, Wisc., says he's been able to upgrade patients from older-generation lenses into "new technology" lenses by having his staff direct both current and new patients — when they call to make appointments — to his practice Web site to complete either the "Welcome New Patients" form or the "Welcome Back Current Patients" form. Both include questions such as, "do you have an interest in trying the latest contact lens designs?" and "would you like to leave your lenses in overnight?"

At the end of the questionnaire, the Web site directs the patient to four links that may be of interest. One of these links educates the patient about silicone hydrogel lenses.

"This questionnaire often sparks patients' interest in overnight lens wear, correcting astigmatism or multifocal contact lenses, which opens the door for a conversation about the best lens for them," says Dr. Jens. (See "Plant The Seed For Future Upgrades," below.)

2 Highlight patient benefits

I've discovered that if you take the time to educate the patient about "why," specifically, you feel a "new technology" lens will benefit him, the patient is more likely to overlook the extra out-of-pocket cost of the lens in favor of his eye health.

For example, Los Angeles, Calif. — my practice's location — isn't only famous for its celebrities and movie studios, but also for its sunny days. As a result, even if my patient's non-ultra-violet (UV) lens fits well and his prescription hasn't changed, I educate him about how protecting his eyes from the sun's damaging rays with a UV-blocking lens, used in conjunction with sunglasses, may decrease his risk for developing sun-related eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

More times than not, the non-ultra-violet lens wearers leave my practice with a UV-blocking lens and sunglasses because they understand that I've mentioned these products to enable them to maintain their eye health and not to line my pockets.

3 Offer a trial run first

Marshall Field, O.D., of North Brunswick, NJ, says he's been successful in upgrading patients by offering a trial run in a new lens.

Plant The Seed For Future Upgrades
Aside from referring patients to your practice Web site to capture their interest in "new technology" lenses, these methods may also be effective.
  • Have your technicians inquire about a patient's general satisfaction with his contact lens and whether he'd like to learn about new lenses that match his prescription during the pretesting phase of the exam.
  • Send printed- or e-newsletters profiling new lenses.
  • Mine your own patient database for specific characteristics, such as age, seasonal allergy status, astigmatism, etc. You might want to send a postcard to the addresses of all eight- to 24-year-old patients about the health advantages of daily disposable lenses, for example.
  • Keep a waiting list for patients who have unique problems and aren't served well by their current lenses, so they can be the first on which you try new pertinent specialty products.
  • Discuss new lens technologies with the patient while he's in your exam chair even if they aren't yet available, as this will spark patients to inquire about their availability at future visits.

For example, Dr. Field says he recently saw a new mother, whose pregnancy-induced hormone-related dry eye limited her lens wear to roughly six hours a day. As a result, Dr. Field says he suggested that she upgrade from her older single-use lenses to a "new technology" single-use lens, which provided better wettability and comfort, and therefore a higher price tag than her current lens. Despite the fact that he took the time to educate the patient about the benefit of the "new technology" single-use lens, however, Dr. Field says that the patient was skeptical about switching because of its increased cost.

Dr. Field says he asked the patient whether she'd be willing to trial wear the new lens so he could prove that the lens was indeed worth its cost. The patient agreed. When she returned for her contact-lens evaluation, she reported that she could wear the new lens comfortably for 14 to 16 hours a day. So, she agreed to wear it from that moment on.

Remember: Patients rely on your expertise to provide them with the best care. When you let fear and preconceived notions dictate your care, you inadvertently send the message that your expertise is limited, which prompts patients to seek eye care from a different practitioner.

"Just because a patient is working class doesn't mean he isn't willing to invest in his vision and comfort," reminds Dr. Jens.

By following the three outlined tips, you have a great chance of not only maintaining your reputation as an excellent eyecare practitioner, but growing your practice's income.

"I view it as my job to educate the patient about the best option for their eyes," says Dr. Field. "I'm interested in building a relationship and making sure that patients see me as an advocate and partner in their eye care, no matter what contact lens they end up wearing. Staying abreast of new technology is just how I provide the best possible patient care and customer service." OM

Optometric Management wants to hear from you!
Do you have any unique tips on how to upgrade patients into "new technology" contact lenses? If so, please send your tip or tips to Jennifer Kirby, senior associate editor, at kirbyj@lwwvsioncare.com.

Dr. Brisco
practices at Hollywood Vision Center in Los Angeles, Calif. She is also co-founder of the Rehabilitative Vision Clinic at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and founder and director of the Fountain of Health integrated wellness center, both in Los Angeles. Contact her at (323) 954-5800 or hollywood_vision@yahoo. com.


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2008