Article Date: 8/1/2004

gp benefits
Grow Your Practice with GP Contact Lenses
GPs can provide a specialist identity for the optometrist while solving anomalies and building a loyal patient base.
BY EDWARD S. BENNETT, O.D., M.S.Ed.; ROBERT L. DAVIS, O.D., F.A.A.O. & THOMAS G. QUINN, O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O.

In an increasingly competitive contact lens environment, GP lenses represent an excellent opportunity for any eyecare practitioner to grow his practice. This article will demonstrate how GP lenses are often an excellent option for patients and how you can use them to increase practice profitability, patient success and professional satisfaction.

Reason to appreciate GPs

GP lenses represent one procedure in the menu of services that provides profitable revenue for a practice, provides a specialist identity for the doctor, solves anomalies and develops a referral pathway for other doctors to use your services. GP lenses don't lend themselves to alternate sources of distribution because of the methodology of fabrication. Therefore, patients are more likely to return to the prescribing practitioners for replacement lenses, eye care and spectacles -- all of which increases practice revenue and profitability.

Patient considerations

The worst possible scenario for developing a patient/doctor relationship is when a patient attempts to receive a lens from a retailer other than his fitting practitioner and the lens consequently doesn't meet his expectations. The patient has no other option except to return to his fitting doctor with the expectation that the fitting doctor will satisfy the anomaly. This can set up a scenario that's uncomfortable for both the patient and the doctor.

The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) can actually have beneficial applications for practices that fit a large number of GP lenses. Traditionally, GPs have represented a lens modality for which patients rarely ask their prescription. Now, through a survey of GP fitting practitioners who serve as advisory members of the GP Lens Institute, it's evident that although practitioners are required to provide prescriptions to every contact lens patient, GP patients almost always purchase their lenses from the prescribing practitioner. The fabrication of GP lenses isn't a prescription until the practitioner has achieved a successful fit, which allows the patient to appreciate the value and custom nature of their lenses as well as the quality of their vision. Patients therefore perceive GP lenses as a healthcare correction modality rather than as a commodity.

Streamlining the fitting process

We create patient excitement about contact lenses when we place the first one on the patient's eye and it performs optimally without sensation. As practitioners, we must optimize our opportunities to create a positive experience with our contact lens patients. The diagnostic fitting experience must leave a positive impression with the patient so he'll give it a chance to succeed; this is especially true if you're refitting a soft lens wearer into GPs.

Another method of accomplishing this goal is to immediately provide patients with the number-one benefit of GP lenses: Vision. Fitting the lenses out of inventory is ideal and ensures that the patient sees well and you can fine tune both fit and vision as well as provide replacement lenses from stock with this method. The bottom line is that if the patient's first experience is good visually, then we can argue that he'll perceive his comfort as being better as well.

To improve the initial experience, you can use an anesthetic before you first apply a GP lens. In addition, it's important that the first lens you apply optimally corrects the patient's refractive error if at all possible. You can accomplish this either by the use of an inventory or via empirical fitting. Several Contact Lens Manufacturers Association (CLMA) member laboratories have inventories available.

Some, such as AccuLens, have a larger-than-average diameter (10.3mm) and limited base curve radii available to optimize the number of available powers in their new Naturalens design. In fact, it's evident that larger diameter lenses also optimize initial comfort. Some are as large as 11.2 mm and 14.8 mm and not only compete with soft lenses on comfort, but also minimizes debris getting underneath the contact lens. Many sports-minded patients require lenses that minimize the likelihood of lens displacement. The large-diameter GP lens design satisfies this criterion while reducing any chance of halos, flare or glare.

Undeniable advantages

The advantages of GP lenses become apparent when they solve an unsuccessful hydrophilic lens wearer's problems. Night driving, uncorrected astigmatism, halos, glare and visual problems through a lens fabricated with water creates less-than-optimal visual performance. GP lenses can correct visual problems created by the hydrophilic lens.

Patients may find comfort with rigid lenses initially problematic, although newer, large-diameter lens designs have improved comfort by reducing the lid interaction. Soft lenses tend to increase patients' yearly costs because they have to purchase multiple lenses and associated solutions.

Patients primarily use soft lenses for sport activities. However, visual problems associated with a soft lens design might interfere with performance. A state champion volleyball player found a glare solution from the indoor lights by wearing a large 14.2 GP lens design. The stability of this lens design provided no fear of the lens dislodging from position. We have a number of such GP success stories, some of which you'll find in "GP Testimonials."

 

Show Me the Profits!

 

Doctors fitting GP contact lenses have realized tremendous growth in their practices. GP lenses can replace the lost revenue resulting from the reduced profitability of soft lenses. The GP menu of services includes single-vision lenses, bifocal lenses and corneal reshaping techniques.

Just by fitting five single-vision GP patients each week equates to an increase in income of between $1,000 and $1,500. Fitting two GP bifocal patients each week will add an additional $1,000 to $1,500. Prescribing one corneal reshaping program each week will add another $1,000 to $1,500. The yearly added income of fitting these eight patients each week will increase the gross revenue by between $156,000 and $216,000.

Less drop outs with GPs

Contact lens drop out rates have plagued the contact lens industry. Patients have been dropping out of contact lens wear because of the problems associated with hydrophilic lenses. Pristine vision, easy maintenance, lens longevity, less acute red eye problems and less expensive visual correction all contribute to GP lens retention.

Soft lenses have pushed the envelope with instant diagnostic fitting. Practitioners give patients immediate gratification by applying a diagnostic soft disposable lens on the eye, which gives the patient a soft lens experience. I also use this same philosophy when fitting GP lenses. I stock GP lenses to give my patients the same service in case one of them loses a lens or needs a replacement. Contact lens patients panic if they're forced to go back to wearing glasses. Having replacement lenses in the office can eliminate this inconvenience.

A second option is to always provide a patient with two pairs of lenses once you've successfully fit him. Some laboratories have plans such that the purchase of two pairs is little more than one. This is important when attempting to compete with soft lenses in minimizing patient inconvenience during periods of lens loss. Keeping the playing field equal with replacement lenses and fitting procedures tease out differences only related to lens modality.

Discover your GP patients

GP contact lenses offer us a vision correction modality that induces a high degree of patient retention. A well-fit GP lens gives patients a good reason to develop a strong relationship with their prescribing doctor. Numerous fitting parameters create difficulty in shopping the lens design. It's clear that many of your prospective contact lens candidates are actually GP contact lens candidates waiting for you to discover them. Be the explorer and set sail for what may, up until now, have been uncharted territory in your office. It's a journey worth taking!

 

GP Testimonials

Baby-eyed Brenda
Brenda was a myopic middle-schooler interested in contact lenses. Because she had a spherical refractive error and her older sister wore soft lenses, my first approach was to recommend disposable soft contact lenses. The problem was, Brenda is a tiny girl with small apertures. She couldn't get the big, floppy soft lens in her eye. GPs have been the answer; she's now worn GPs successfully for six years.

The Fiscal Conservative
Jerry works in a sporting goods store and is an avid hunter. At his annual eye exam, he expressed interested in the freedom contact lenses could provide during his outdoor activities. He's also a moderate with-the-rule astigmat. GP lenses make great sense from a vision perspective, but what really sold Jerry on the deal was the lower long-term cost of GP lenses compared to disposable toric soft lenses.

Fuming Over Contact Lenses
George is a myopic astigmat in his second year of medical school. He found it bothersome to wear his soft contact lenses in the anatomy laboratory because the fumes from the chemicals preserving the tissue caused his eyes to burn. GP lenses have not only helped him feel better in this environment, but he's seeing better too!

The Environmentalist
Marty is a woman passionate about the environment. The idea of disposing of a soft lens on a frequent basis just rubbed her wrong. GP lenses not only effectively meet her vision needs, but she's pleased that she only needs to dispose of them on a one- or two-year interval.

 

Dr. Bennett is an associate professor of optometry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is executive director of the GP Lens Institute.

Dr. Davis is in private practice in Oak Lawn, Ill. and conducts clinical research. He's a diplomate in the Cornea and Contact Lens Section of the American Academy of Optometry.

Dr. Quinn is in group practice in Athens, Ohio, and has served as a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.

 



Optometric Management, Issue: August 2004