THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
They're All V.I.P.s!
All patients' visual needs are important.
BY MELVIN SCHRIER, O.D., F.A.A.O., RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CALIF.
This morning I had a heated conversation with a customer relations person at a well-known camera company. I had finally stepped into the 21st century and upgraded to a fairly expensive digital camera, but a part failed, making the camera useless just before a major trip abroad. The only repair facility is 3,000 miles away from my home and accepts repairs in the order in which they arrive.
The company suggested overnight mail service with no guarantee that my camera would be returned in time for my trip -- one month away. I sent the camera overnight. A phone call one week after it arrived at the repair shop got me the same line: "It's in line for repair as it arrived, and there's nothing we can do!"
The teeth-gnashing exchange with the company representative made me recall a situation in my practice years ago relating to "company policy."
ILLUSTRATION BY PATRICK GNAN
"There's nothing we can do!"
Companies had just begun to offer cylinder corrections in soft contact lenses. My patient, a rather high myope with a meaningful amount of astigmatism, needed to wear contact lenses for her theatrical career. Spherical contact lenses didn't offer adequate visual acuity and GP lenses were
I meticulously designed a proper lens (the fitting parameters were available from the lab) with the needed astigmatic prescription and called my lab representative to order them. He listened attentively, wrote down the prescription and ordered the lenses. A few hours later, he called back to say that the lab couldn't provide the lenses -- they were out of the range of prescriptions available. He was truly sorry but said there was no way of getting those lenses.
My patient and I were stymied by this "company policy." I was so incensed that I called my rep back and told him "These lenses were for Nancy Reagan!" (She was the First Lady at the time and because my office was on Park Avenue, it was certainly a possibility that she was my patient.) The rep stammered and said, "I'll call you back, Doc." He did (within the hour), and asked for the prescription again.
Ten days later, the requested lenses arrived at the office in a special box with a card signed by all of the people in the lab addressed to Nancy Reagan, telling her how thrilled they were to have been part of the team creating these lenses! Was I happy? No! There was no way my patient could have gotten the lenses, but Nancy could; it could have been done, but no one wanted to do it for "Mary." Company policy wasn't interested in the needs of those who didn't fit into the cookie-cutter mold of parameters the lab had created. I cannot believe that it isn't in the interest of laboratories to offer difficult and/or unusual prescriptions at a higher cost and a longer production time.
Thank you, Nancy
Nancy's lenses fit my patient well and for years, members of the lab always asked how "Nancy" was. I'll let you know if my camera arrives in time for my vacation!
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENÉ LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR
Optometric Management, Issue: November 2004