improvements in virtually every modality of contact lens wear have resulted in a
vast array of products. These allow more patients than ever before to obtain the
ideal contact lens-wearing experience. The emergence of new technologies in this
field gives us both opportunity and responsibility. On one hand, it's a tremendous
opportunity for us to grow our contact lens practices. On the other, it requires
that we stay educated in this field so we can recommend the most appropriate lens
for our patients.
However, many practitioners sometimes find it difficult to incorporate
new lenses into their arsenal that they are comfortable with. Let's discuss five
steps you can take that may help you better market the new contact lens technologies.
STEP 1: TAKE THE PROACTIVE APPROACH
Proactive means that you must actively take the time to talk to
your patients about their options instead of renewing a prescription for the same
lenses they've been wearing successfully for years. Even if they decide not try
the new technology, it will let you educate them about their options; it will also
emphasize the fact that you keep up with the latest changes in medical technology.
If you think this approach is too aggressive, you should realize that patients come
to us for professional advice. We are obligated, as primary eyecare providers, to
recommend the contact lens that's best suited for a patient's particular lifestyle
Some worry about doing this because they have already pre-judged
a patient's willingness to pay for the "extra" services. However, you should always
start by recommending the best option, in your professional opinion, and letting
the patient decline it, if need be. If you apply the medical model to contact lens
fitting, you should base your fees on the complexity of the case, time spent and
Don't be afraid of charging too much; instead, make sure that
patients get a sense of value in what they pay for. Value doesn't mean "less expensive."
Value is available in any price bracket, and it's based on perception, not a dollar
amount. For example, most people are willing to pay more for a dinner at an expensive
restaurant because they get better service, wonderful ambience and exquisite food.
Obviously, they would not want to pay the same amount for dinner at a fast-food
restaurant. Your goal in setting fees is to make them a fair reflection of your
services. By doing this, you will also offset the decreased profit that we all make
on the materials side of contact lenses.
The most important part of being proactive is that you must initiate
the dialogue with your patients in terms of what you think is best for them. You
should ask every patient at virtually every visit about his or her
interest in contact lenses. If you don't do this, patients may think that contact
lenses aren't an option for them. That idea may be a misperception from information
they've gathered from friends, co-workers or the Internet. It may be a misperception
from information they have gotten from you. For example, years ago, you may have
told a particular patient that soft contact lenses weren't an option because of
his or her astigmatism or that bifocal contact lenses did not work. That concept
is established in his or her mind and will remain there until you approach the idea
STEP 2: MAKE SURE THAT EVERYONE
IS ON BOARD
One of the most vital aspects of successful
marketing is consistency and repeatability. On the surface, this sounds like common
sense, but it means more than that. It means that everyone in your office must echo
the same message that you communicate.
Sometimes what happens is that patients will listen to your advice
about their contact lenses and then "secretly" ask your secretary or technician
for advice. For this very reason, you should make sure that your entire staff is
always educated and motivated about the contact lens modalities you recommend. It
might help sometimes to send them to contact lens seminars or have the sales representatives
hold staff meetings to discuss new contact lenses and answer questions.
By making your whole staff aware of the latest technology in contact
lenses, your patients will get the same message, which will keep them confident
in you as their doctor. Therefore, take the time to convince your staff of the new
lens technologies before you start convincing your patients.
STEP 3: START WITH YOUR CURRENT
When doctors hear the word "marketing,"
they often envision thousands of dollars being spent on a mail-order or advertising
campaign. While expanding our practice by adding new patients is the ultimate goal,
it starts with taking care of the needs of the patients you already have. You can
begin by educating your patients through newsletters, mailings, brochures, videos
and through your well-informed staff. Many contact lens companies are more than
happy to help you with these promotional items. In addition, you can send brochures
and flyers about what's new in contact lenses along with items you already send
to patients for example, with your monthly billing and recall letters.
By educating your patients about what's new, you will keep them
excited, which will build loyalty and compliance. Ultimately, that means more patients
return to you year after year, which is always a healthier and more profitable situation.
STEP 4: HOLD OPEN HOUSES
Many practices that co-manage LASIK hold
open houses for LASIK seminars. Instead of merely discussing refractive surgery,
you can use these seminars to educate patients about the new types of contact lenses.
For some patients, this might mean that they ask you to fit them with contact lenses
instead of choosing refractive surgery. For others, it will reinforce their decision
to undergo LASIK. In either case, you and your patients win.
These open houses are most easily done when a new contact lens
design comes on the market. This is often the time when local sales reps have money
in their budgets for marketing these new lenses. Hence, they can be a valuable resource
in paying for some or all of the expenses for holding these open houses. Open houses
are enjoyable for both the doctor and the patients and generate interest in your
practice. Also, they send the clear message that you are at the forefront of the
contact lens industry and this generates word-of-mouth referrals.
STEP 5: EXAMPLES OF RECOMMENDATIONS
FOR SPECIFIC LENS TYPES
Daily disposable lenses. Single-use, daily disposable lens wear is a growing modality
in this country. Obviously, one of the main features of this lens type is that there's
no need for cleaning or disinfection. However, patients who do not want to clean
their lenses are not the only people you should recommend this lens to.
This modality is also a nice option to offer patients who are
prone to solution allergy or toxicity. Patients who are heavy depositors and allergy
sufferers, for whom a clean lens every day can significantly reduce the allergy
response, are also appropriate candidates.
Lastly, remember the patients who might use this lens just for
sports and/or social events. Some patients may want the luxury of being able to
wear contact lenses for special events, but may not think about it until you approach
This is an area where many patients still believe that they cannot
wear soft contact lenses. The reality is that many people can wear soft, planned
replacement lenses comfortably. In fact, we now have toric lens designs that offer
high cylinder powers: CooperVision's Vertex Toric XR at –2.75D, –3.25D
and –3.75D; Cooper's Frequency 55 Toric XR, which goes up to –5.25D,
and Bausch & Lomb's Soflens 66 Toric, which goes up to 2.75D. Most other designs
offer lenses going up to a –2.25D cylinder. Unlike the designs of the past,
the toric lenses of today feature good comfort and vision and excellent reproducibility.
Once again, this is an area where you should specifically ask patients with astigmatism
if they are interested in contact lens wear.
►Silicone hydrogels. Obviously, one of the uses for silicone hydrogels is for daily-wear
patients who already show signs of hypoxic stress such as corneal neovascularization,
microcystic keratitis or corneal edema. However, your marketing and recommendations
for these lenses should not just end there. Silicone hydrogels especially
with 30-days of continuous wear might be a nice alternative for patents who
are interested in LASIK. You should recommend these lenses for any patient who is
already sleeping in contact lenses, either full time or part time. As we all know,
a good percentage of patients end up sleeping in their contacts despite what we
tell them. Rather than annoy them and potentially lose them wouldn't
it be better to find a modality that is safer for them? One that fits better with
their particular needs and lifestyle?
►Bifocal contact lenses. This is perhaps the largest expanding group of contact lens-wearing
patients. Many of these patients are already wearing contact lenses and don't want
to give them up; they definitely don't want to wear reading glasses. Although monovision
would have been the modality of choice a decade ago, today's multifocal lenses have
proven success records and can help service your aging contact lens patients.
Don't forget specialty soft lenses
Although these specialty soft contact lenses may not be a huge
percentage of your contact lens practice, they can help you increase your business.
Here are some patient categories to consider.
These patients are looking for enhancement of sports performance.
The newly-introduced Nike Maxsight sport-tinted contact lens (Bausch & Lomb)
offers two different tints that alter visual perception to facilitate better visual
responses in certain sporting venues.
Every practitioner has his or her comfort level and guidelines
as to how young to fit a child with contact lenses. With the wide variety of modalities
available, the typical age of younger patients is significantly lower than in years
past. This is a potentially enormous area where you should not wait for patients
or their parents to ask you about contact lenses. Again, be proactive and tell them.
►Pediatric patients with binocular abnormalities. Some of these patients may be children
only five or six years old, so while you may not consider them for contact lenses
for cosmetic reasons, you would for special circumstances. In some cases, you may
want to consider having parents insert and remove silicone hydrogel lenses.
►Overnight orthokeratology. Ortho-k can serve as a huge growth area for your pediatric
practice. Most myopic parents are eager to listen to options that would prevent
myopic progression in their children. This is one specialty O.D.s underutilize that
produces excited patients and great referrals. This modality will also generate
significant compensation for your time, services and expertise.
What lies ahead
Like the profession of optometry itself, the field of contact
lens fitting is evolving and expanding. Modalities that we thought were not possible
or ones we actively discouraged before are now considered top potential markets.
Ongoing improvements in manufacturing and research by the leading
lens companies will result in continued improvements. Thus, the challenge remains
up to us as primary care providers and specialists in contact lens fitting to ask
the right questions of our patients. That is the only way to match their needs to
what is available. By better serving our patients, we will better serve our practices
Gupta practices full scope optometry
in Stamford, Conn. He also serves as clinical director of The Center for Keratoconus
at Stamford Ophthalmology. Send e-mail to
Optometric Management, Issue: June 2006