Article Date: 12/1/2006

Poster, Pamphlet and Paper Chase

The Learn how to best use patient education materials to dispense contact lenses.
BY JENNIFER KIRBY, Senior Associate Editor

Six months ago, a 46-year-old woman pre- sented to optometrist Chris Russell's Valrico, Fla. practice, desperate for bifocal contact lenses (CL).  

The problem: "She was told by four separate O.D.s she had a minimal prescription at distance and that because she was an emerging presbyope, she couldn't be fit in a bifocal CL," says Dr. Russell. "I ended up fitting her in a soft, modified bifocal CL, and it has worked wonderfully for her."

This patient found Dr. Russell on the Internet while searching for O.D.s in her area who specialized in CL fittings and accept her health insurance. What made her specifically choose Dr. Russell: a brochure on his Web site regarding a specific type of bifocal CL.

Here are five additional ways you can effectively use patient education materials to dispense CLs.

Place materials in patient-heavy areas

Place vendor and patient-education materials in three areas

of your practice: the reception room, your exam rooms and at your front desk, says optometrist Sheldon H. Kreda, of Lauderhill, Fla. "The reception area is best for passive materials, such as posters, counter cards and pamphlets, as this room gives the patient the freedom to browse on his own without staff input," he says. Place pamphlets and CD-ROMs in your exam rooms, as these can be excellent educational aids during your CL consultation."

Optometrist Jack Schaeffer, of Birmingham, Ala., recommends keeping most of your patient education materials in your exam rooms, as patients are usually too busy with paper work and magazines in the reception room to browse your vendor materials, he says.

Another suggestion: include vendor and patient education materials in your ophthalmic lens-wearer's spectacle receipt bag to make him aware of CLs available for his condition, says Dr. Russell.

Display ocular condition CL materials

Vendor and patient education materials about a specific ocular condition tend to be successful in helping you to dispense CLs because they discuss in a non-technical and non-sales pitch way the benefits of the specific CL in relation to the patient's condition, says Dr. Russell.

Personalize your CL patient education material

Optometrist Susan Resnick, of New York, NY, suggests creating your own patient education materials because some of the sponsored materials can be too sales- oriented and/or technical. "We take the information from the sales representatives and create a comprehensive yearly patient newsletter that is organized via CL category so it does not appear as an ad."

The results: "For the past 25 years, patients have been asking for things they read about in our newsletter," she says. "And I really believe this is because we've presented CLs less as a commodity and more as a specialized medical device."

Use category-based CL patient education material

Ask your sales reps to bring you samples of their brochures, and use those brochures that best tout the CL category and not the product itself, Dr. Schaeffer says. Start with the category-based material to arm your patient with all the information he needs to understand why, after his ex-am, you have chosen one specific CL brand over the others, he says. "Then, provide him with the pamphlet on that specific lens as well as a form that includes compliance information," Dr. Schaeffer says. " This method has enabled me to dispense many types of CLs because the patient knows I am not trying to sell a product, but to fit the best lens system for their eyes."

Offer bilingual versions

In California, a majority of patients are Hispanic, and this population is growing across the entire country, says optometrist Milton M. Hom, of Azusa,

Calif. "As a result of this and the growth of other minorities in the United States, the more bilingual materials you can get, the better off you'll be," he says.

The 46-year-old patient mentioned above has since taken a hard copy of the brochure she saw on Dr. Russell's Web site as well as his business cards and passed them to friends who have been previously unsuccessful in bifocal lenses.

"I swear she is not getting any incentive for doing this," Dr. Russell says. "So far we have seen six patients she has referred." By following this and the six steps mentioned above, you'll get this same outcome in no time.

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2006