2004 to 2005, the photochromic lens category saw an increase in sales of about 5%.
That's impressive when you consider the 2% decrease in overall lens sales. What's
more, photochromics have continuously gained a larger percentage of the market share,
increasing incrementally from 12% in 2002 to 16% in 2005. In an era of increasing
competition, adding this consistently popular option to your dispensary arsenal
could make a big difference in your bottom line.
all the lens options available today, adding a new option for your patients can
be a big decision. But the doctors we talked to estimate 15% to 25% of their patients
leave the office with photochromic lenses. Anne Marie Newcomer, O.D., of Homosassa,
Fla., reports her office has close to a 51% capture rate for new frames and about
20% of those get photochromic lenses. Here, O.D.s who have proven successful with
photo-chromics offer tips on dispensing these lenses to your patients.
Rule number one in dispensing is that you, the doctor, must recommend
lens options to your patients in the exam room. This holds true for photochromics.
"Talk to patients in the exam room about reduced glare, increased contrast acuity
and the importance of UV protection. They'll listen," says Dr. Newcomer.
Dr. John Scibal of Morehead City, N.C., takes this concept a step
further, "It's important to prescribe [photochromics] rather than ask patients if
they are interested. When you write it down, it becomes gospel," he says.
Talking to your patients directly also helps avoid confusion.
Dr. Newcomer notes that many patients get confused about lens options they've heard
about from friends. "It's amazing how many people get Transitions and progressives
mixed up," she says. Discussing the options with your patients will clear up any
misunderstandings before they get to the dispensary. Dr. Scibal says, "It's surprising
how many people have never thought about [the option]. No one ever recommended it
to them before."
Create a niche
While all patients can potentially benefit from photochromic lenses,
a patient questionnaire can help you determine which patients may have a greater
need for these lenses. Dr. Scibal's office distributes a lifestyle questionnaire
to patients with the general office paperwork. "One question is, 'Do you spend a
lot of time outdoors,'" he says, "If they check yes, it's an easy lead in to discuss
the benefits of photochromic lenses." Other questions that can give you an idea
of the patient's predilection for photochromics include, 'Do you wear your glasses
when driving? Do you play any outdoor sports? Does your job require you to go outside?'
Be creative and come up with questions specific to your patient base.
In the meantime, though, there are certain groups our experts
say will gain the most benefit from photochromic lenses.
You may not think of this group first for photochromic lenses,
but they make sense for a child's active lifestyle. Parents are generally enthusiastic
about this option. "They don't want to have their kids worry about having an extra
pair of sunglasses," says Dr. Newcomer. This also means only having to replace one
pair of glasses should the child lose them, a common problem.
Optometrist Richard Colo, of Suffield, Conn., points out, "As
we get older, we need to get as much light into the eye as possible." This was a
problem with older photochromics because they didn't get as clear as today's generation,
which posed a problem for night driving. Dr. Colo says you can now feel comfortable
prescribing these for your older patients because the light transmission is so much
Dr. Newcomer notes your baby boomer patients will enjoy the convenience
aspect of photochromics. She believes this will be an important market in the future.
Patients who work in the service industry are often switching
between indoor and outdoor environments. Dr. Scibal says in his practice, patients
in the construction industry have responded well. Other service areas to consider:
pest-control professionals, HVAC technicians, plumbers, landscapers, etc.
Delivery personnel are also required to go from light to dark
situations as they go from the delivery truck to each office, then back to the truck
and on to the next location. Lighting can even vary from office to office, making
these patients ideal candidates for the photochromic option. Outside sales representatives
fall into this category as well because they often visit clients in multiple locations
in a given day.
Previous photochromic patients
Patients who dropped out of photochromic lenses due to indoor
transmittance problems in the first generation will be amazed by the clarity of
new lenses. "When we show [these patients] the difference, they are much more satisfied
with the product," says Dr. Newcomer. What's more, she says patients who try the
new lenses want them again. "So there are no drop outs like before," she says.
Dr. Colo deals with many patients in clay target sports. He believes
this is a specialty market that will evolve into a major player in the photochromic
lens arena. "Any type of sport that involves depth perception or pursuit movement
will benefit from letting as much light into the eye as possible. No modality can
do that better than photochromics," he says.
One lens for all
When discussing photo-chromics with any patient, it's important
to go over health benefits. Dr. Newcomer's office is in sunny Florida, so she discusses
UV protection with all her patients. You may also want to mention the added benefit
of an AR coating to reduce glare without affecting light transmittance.
Overall, today's photochromic patient is highly satisfied, making
these lenses a great choice for all your patients. "I find it's extremely rare that
I put a patient in a photochromic lens and they don't like it," says Dr. Colo.
OPTICAL LENS SALES 2004 2005
Total number of
66,401,678 Photochromic lenses sold
Percentage increase -2.1% 5.2%
* Based on information from Transitions Optical
and Vision Council of America (VCA).
Hoya Vision Care
Transitions Optical www.transitions.com
Vision Ease Lens
Optometric Management, Issue: March 2006