Article Date: 8/1/2009

Effectively Present Contact Lenses
contact lenses

Effectively Present Contact Lenses

Follow these five steps to increase your contact lens-related gross revenue.

MARK WELLS, O.D., Cheyenne, Wyo.

Because 36.5% of your practice's revenues are tied to contact lens sales and services (according to the most recent data), it's crucial you watch over and protect this revenue stream.1 I would argue that your ability to do this comes down to just how well you present contact lens products to your patients. The challenge is presenting this information so that the patient understands how specific products will benefit his health, comfort and visual acuity.

Here, I describe the specific ways you can successfully dispense contact lenses.

1. Become an investigator

In order to successfully present contact lenses to your patients, you need to find out what new products are available to meet their previously unmet needs. To uncover these needs, stay in constant contact with your contact lens representatives, attend several optometricthemed trade shows where you can be present at presentations and classes regarding new products, and devour the various ophthalmic and optometric journals currently available.

IN YOUR PRACTICE: Use the aforementioned resources to assist you in providing patient education on the benefits of the new product in relation to the patient's specific need(s). (See "Meet Previously Unmet Needs," below.)

Meet Previously Unmet Needs
The following are tips on how you can successfully dispense contact lenses to specific patient populations who often weren't candidates for lens wear due to the technological limitations of the materials and designs. Remember: Patients value one-on-one communication from you, their practitioner.
Children (ages eight to 12). Educate parents about how UV protection, and high-oxygen permeable materials, among other attributes of current products, now allow children to achieve safe and enjoyable contact lens wear. For instance, when explaining the benefits of oxygen permeability, I use the following analogy:
"Imagine trying to pour water through plastic wrap. It wouldn't go through it. Now, imagine pouring water through a piece of cheesecloth. The water will flow through that without a problem. A high-oxygen-permeable lens is like the cheese cloth, and the water is like oxygen." This analogy helps parents to understand the benefit of a high dk lens to their child's eyes.
Next, explain the lifestyle benefits of contact lens wear:
"Many children who wear glasses tell me they don't like having to constantly adjust their glasses or worry about them falling off while they're playing. With contact lens wear, these aren't issues."
In addition, I tend to mention to parents how contact lens wear for their children may actually enable them to save money and the hassle associated with constant spectacle repairs, as children tend to be pretty rough on their glasses. And, I always offer the silicone hydrogel daily disposable option. This really resonates with parents because the lens doesn't require a cleaning regimen, facilitates child insertion and removal (due its' stiffness) and precludes the issue of losing or tearing a lens (as a result of every day replacement).
Tweenagers/teenagers (ages 13-19). Explain to these patients and their apprehensive parents that adhering to a wear and care schedule is no longer a requirement to wear contact lenses with the availability of oxygen-rich extended-wear lenses and silicone hydrogel daily disposable lenses. This makes an impact, as many of these patients are unable to successfully wear contact lenses because their hectic lifestyles (e.g. after-school sports, clubs, jobs, homework, etc.) preclude them from safe wear.
Presbyopes. Educate these patients that the latest materials don't exacerbate ocular dryness, and that many of the newest multifocal designs no longer require a compromise in distance vision to achieve decent near vision. However, because presbyopic patients are notoriously demanding and often unrealistic (many expect their contact lenses to give them the same vision as their glasses), you must be upfront that no product is perfect and that because some designs rely upon pupil size, some visual changes are likely when moving into a presbyopic lens.
Dry eye/allergy patients. Stress to these patients that contact lens manufacturers are aware of these issues and through recent technology have developed various lens materials and designs to address them. Once you decide which lens is most appropriate for the patient, highlight the characteristics of the lens that make it dry eye and/or allergy friendly.
Astigmatism patients. Explain to these patients that the latest astigmatic designs are available in more parameters (disposable designs), they don't rotate on the cornea — compromising vision — and they're available in silicone hydrogel designs. This information makes an enormous impact on those astigmatic patients who were motivated to wear contact lenses, though didn't have an option available to meet their needs.

2. Make it personal

To determine what specific contact lens materials and designs from which a patient can benefit, many of us obtain the patient's history, which includes a thorough lifestyle questionnaire. In some practices, a staff member is instructed to discuss new materials and designs with the patient based on the answers to this questionnaire.

I've found, however, that the patient is more receptive to my recommendations when I'm the one gathering contact lens-related information. I believe this is because a practitioner's personal touch instills patient trust.

IN YOUR PRACTICE: Once you are face-to-face with the patient in the exam room, ask the following four questions. All are personal in nature, enabling you to both establish a connection with the patient and make the correct recommendation:

1. What do you do for a living, and what's your work environment like?

2. What kinds of activities do you like to participate in, in your spare time?

3. If you were interested in wearing contact lenses what would be your desired duration of wear?

4. Would you ever want to be able to sleep in a contact lens?

3. Prompt patient action

Many of us market new products through contact lens company posters and pamphlets to make all our patients aware of the various contact lens designs we fit and the specific benefits of these lenses. The problem: Most of these materials, though chock full of patient-friendly information, don't elicit any immediate action from the patient. I've discovered, however, that targeting a specific patient population with a piece of marketing that cues action on their part has enabled me to successfully dispense the new product.

IN YOUR PRACTICE: Once you hear about a new contact lens, personalize a marketing piece, such as a flyer, to invite queries. For instance, if you learn a new lens works well for patients who suffer from ocular dryness, your flyer might read: "Finally, a Contact Lens For Dryness!" Inquire About Whether You're a Candidate." This sets the stage for these patients to ask you about the new lens.

4. Maximize internal marketing

Considering culling through your patient records, and break down patients into various demographics. This allows you to focus on those patients who can directly benefit from the new products. (An electronic medical records program can accomplish this automatically.)

For instance, if a new contact lens for ocular dryness becomes available, your records would reveal those patients whose ocular dryness has prevented contact lens wear, those who've experienced persistent and severe contact lens-induced dryness and had to cease wear, or current wearers who've complained of some dryness, though say they are able to "tolerate" or "deal with" wear. (Remember: Just because many of your patients are current contact lens wearers, doesn't mean they wouldn't be interested in a new material or design that could enhance their wear experience. Overlooking these patients may short-change them and the finances of your practice.)

IN YOUR PRACTICE: Have your staff begin breaking down patients into various demographics, and use this information to send additional marketing pieces, such as inserts in snail-mail billing statements, recalls, and e-mails, about a new lens. A personal letter or e-mail can also go a long way:

"Dear Mrs. Jones: Our records indicate that you are interested in contact lens wear, though haven't been able to achieve successful wear due to ocular dryness. I wanted to let you know that a new contact lens is available specifically designed for ocular dryness, and I believe I can fit you in this lens…"

5. Zero in on an external demographic

Placing external advertising geared toward the entire public about a specific contact lens will not garner you nearly as many new patients as marketing to a specific demographic whom you know will benefit from the lens.

For example, research has shown that children who participate in sports can greatly benefit from contact lens wear.2

IN YOUR PRACTICE: If a new lens is available that you believe could benefit athletes, for example, consider placing advertising in local school district publications, such as sports programs, to educate this population and their parents on these benefits.

Given that contact lens services and sales comprise a third of our practice's gross revenue, we must be willing to look at ways in which we can preserve it. By following the five tips outlined above, you'll likely not only protect this revenue, but also increase it, along with your patient care and satisfaction. OM

1. 2007 Optical Dispensing Survey. American Optometric Association.
2. Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott L, et al. Randomized trial of the effect of contact lens wear on self-perception in children. Optom Vis Sci. 2009 Mar;86(3): 222-32.

Dr. Wells is partner of a three-doctor O.D. practice, specializing in contact lenses and medical eye care. He's a Southern California College of Optometry graduate and completed a residency at the Los Angeles VA Medical Center. E-mail him at marginwellaol.com.


Optometric Management, Issue: August 2009