Article Date: 1/1/2001

STRATEGIC SKILL BUILDERS: Continuing Education 
COMPLIANCE
Shorter Contact Lens Replacement Schedules: Getting Patients to Comply
Short wearing schedules are best, but enforcing them takes finesse.
By Gary Gerber, O.D., Hawthorne, N.J.

We've all had patients become confused when we ask "Which is better, one or two . . . three or four?" Now, it's payback time for us. Imagine a patient asking, "Doctor, tell me -- which is better . . . ?" No, I'm not talking about the difference between two lenses in your phoropter. I'm referring to your patients' contact lens wearing schedules. Is 1 week better than 2? Is 1 day better than 30? As more lenses and modalities become available, we may become as confused as our patients.

Since 1995, about a dozen new soft contact lenses have been introduced. We've started to fit disposable lenses with schedules as short as 1 day and as long as 30 days. Some of us now question the very word "disposable." Isn't it true that "1-day," "2-week" and "30-day" lenses are all "disposable?" If we're confused, our patients surely are.

Here, I'll explain why I believe shorter wearing schedules -- especially daily ones -- are better, and how to make your patients comply.

WHY SHORTER IS BETTER

The foundation for building better patient compliance is built upon simplifying the choices. Find the modality you believe works best and recommend it whenever clinically appropriate. I like shorter schedules because:

BOOSTING COMPLIANCE

Here are some approaches to boosting the compliance of your more stubborn patients.

I've observed that the first group is more likely to embrace new contact lens modalities. Accordingly, they've adapted shorter disposable lens cycles to their contact lens arsenal first. These doctors don't just believe that shorter is better. They know it -- and so do their patients. Their practices are high-tech, clean and patient friendly.
The aura of professionalism is projected within every segment of the office. The way the office looks, the way the staff behaves -- the entire optometric "gestalt" tells patients, "We're up to date and we know what we're doing." These doctors have more compliant patients because their offices are set up with their progressive philosophy in mind. When they tell their patients to wear lenses for 1 day and then throw them away, their patients are apt to comply.
These two personality types show us that compliance needn't be "enforced" or "policed." A professional, credible optometric experience alone does more than anything else to bolster compliance.

Building these questions into your testing sequence and delegating them to your staff further enforces the notion that good compliance is a part of "business as usual."

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED . . .

If you still have patients who might not be getting your message, try these pointers:

IT'S WORTH THE EFFORT

There's little, if any, expense involved in boosting your patient's compliance. Now let's see how only a slight increase in compliance can impact your practice.

Say you have 500 patients wearing "2-week" lenses with a typical wearing schedule of 3 weeks. If you convert only half of these patients to the proper 2-week schedule using the tips I've recommended, you'll examine 250 patients sooner instead of later. In fact, if you have a 1-year recall program in place, they'll come in about 4 months sooner!

Now, if you collect a $100 professional fee from each of these patients, you'll have the time value of money on your side for a full 4 months.

Add to this additional income from product revenues, and you've just enhanced your practice's bottom line while safeguarding your patients' eye health and their sense of well-being. 

References available upon request.

Dr. Gerber is president of The Power Practice, a company specializing in practice building solutions for optometrists -- consulting, seminars, video programs and software. You can reach him at DrGerber@PowerPractice.com or 800-867-9303.


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2001