Article Date: 4/1/2011


A New Dimension in Contact Lens Marketing

By mining data in their EHR systems, practices can effectively target the right patients with the right message.

Richard A. Driscoll O.D., Colleyville, Texas

Internal marketing to contact lens wearers has taken on a whole new dimension in our practice since we began mining the data in our electronic health records (EHR) system. We are much better able to target promotions, announcements about new products or recalls and patient education efforts to the right groups of patients.

Marketing in three steps

For example, I have a lot of aging patients who dropped out of contact lenses, often due to poor comfort or presbyopia. Thanks to EHR, I was able to send a postcard, which highlighted new multifocal contact lens options to these patients as well as current contact lens wearers. How did I do it?

1. I created a query to search patient billing records for patients, ages 40 to 60, who we had previously billed for a contact lens evaluation or had purchased contact lenses. To further target my list, I excluded anyone with a contact lens power that fell outside the parameters of the available multifocal lenses.

2. In only a few seconds, the EHR system generated a list of candidates in comma-separated values (CSV) format.

3. I exported the list to our mail-merge software to create mailing labels for the postcards. (More recently however, we pull only the e-mail addresses and e-mail the targeted patient groups a short newsletter or a link to a relevant blog posting.)

Targeted messages

Here are a few other examples of how we've used EHR queries to identify the right target audience for contact lens-related marketing messages. We:

► notify wearers about new lenses when their current lenses are being discontinued. We ask them to schedule an appointment to try the new lens or be refit with one of the other options we offer.
► highlight the benefits of silicone hydrogel materials for patients who have corneal neovascularization or those patients wearing low-Dk conventional lenses.
► announce the availability of a new lens for keratoconus to the appropriate patients who had previously been unsuccessful contact lens wearers.
► alert contact lens wearers to the recall of contact lens solutions and detail our recommendations for alternative solutions.
► generate a recall list of patients who are overdue for annual exams.
► send e-mail reminders to patients who have healthcare plans to remind them of their visioncare benefits. This mailing also gives us an opportunity to reacquaint our patients with some of the new services we offer. We began doing this after realizing that certain providers' insurance benefits were consistently underutilized.

The lists we can generate through the EHR are more comprehensive than anything I could generate from memory and more cost-effective than we could gather from paper records. Using our EHR to help us mine our patient records helps us to quickly alert patients to important changes that can affect their ocular health, comfort and satisfaction with contact lens wear. Regular communication not only brings patients in the door sooner, but also sets the stage for conversations about upgrading to better technology, which reminds patients that our practice is on top of the rapid advancements in eye care.

Quantifiable benefits

Quantifiable benefits exist to using your EHR to leverage your marketing. One targeted e-blast we sent recently generated more than 15 appointments that resulted in at least $5,000 in additional revenue. Another query demonstrated that few new patients found us in the Yellow Pages, thus justifying the elimination of an advertising expense that wasn't generating enough revenue to pay for itself.

With EHR, the practice is better able to communicate announcements about new products, product recalls and patient education.

Take the first step

The first step in implementing targeted marketing through EHR is to capture patient e-mails. Electronic newsletters are less expensive to send than paper, and they can incorporate tracking tools that allow you to quantify your campaign's effectiveness, such as how many people open each message, what links they select and more.

We've captured e-mail addresses for years, and it's become even easier with the addition of web registration to our EHR. Web registration allows patients who visit our website ( to enter or update their contact information, insurance and basic history online.

Of course, you have to operate an EHR system that supports queries and generates lists from standard criteria in the system, but you'll get the most robust marketing capabilities from a system that tightly integrates billing, practice management, optical and examination records, in addition to allowing you to add custom fields for specific variables to track.

Marketing … and beyond

There are many reasons, other than marketing, for a contact lens practice to move to an EHR. EHR improves accuracy in contact lens ordering. It allows more accurate and efficient billing and allows our front desk to respond efficiently to contact lens-related patient questions. By consolidating all the relevant information onto one screen, we are better able to make good choices for our contact lens patients. These are the real reasons to implement an EHR.

Once you've gone electronic, the opportunities to mine data for better marketing and better patient care are truly endless. OM

Dr. Driscoll owns Total Eye Care, with offices in Colleyville and Keller, Texas. E-mail him at, or send comments to

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2011