Jennifer Kirby, senior editor

A 51-YEAR-OLD spectacle-wearing man presented to optometrist Ann Rea Miller’s Lima, Ohio practice for his annual eye exam. His history form revealed extensive computer use as the owner of a concrete supply company.

Dr. Miller asked the patient more about his job throughout the exam, which showed no refractive change, and took note that his current lenses were not anti-reflective (AR). She then said to the man:

“After learning about how you use your eyes during your work day, I can enhance your vision with anti-reflective lenses. They’re perfect for you because they decrease glare from the computer, and they should help you with your business, as customers prefer to see the eyes of someone they’re doing business with vs. glare and reflections.”

The man purchased the AR lenses.

When faced with a patient who has an unchanged refraction, many optometrists say, “see you again next year,” and move on. The two reasons for this: (1) These O.D.s perceive the patient as “happy” and don’t want to “rock the boat,” and (2) they don’t want to look like salesmen, which they believe could turn off patients. The bottom line: These O.D.s fear losing patients.

However, other optometrists argue that these O.D.s are still at risk of losing patients and stunting their practice’s growth because patients question the value in seeing them.

Specifically, patients expect their optometrists to prescribe new products to enhance their vision, says optometrist Jeremy Ciano, of Carmel Ind.; to provide added value in the experience, which justifies additional costs, says optometrist Barry Eiden, of Deerfield Ill.; and to show that they can’t get better eye care anywhere else, says optometrist Alan Glazier, of Rockville, Md.

Because starting a conversation about new products can be challenging, here are tips on how to upgrade your patients.


Use your reception room to pique patients’ curiosity.

“We have video monitors that promote eye care education and new contact lens technologies, and we also have all of the point-of-purchase materials, so patients are constantly exposed to both education and products that could benefit them,” explains Dr. Eiden.

Many patients ask about what they’ve seen in the office and whether they’re candidates for it, he says.


Use staff as a means to plant the seed for a new product.

“A lot of times, patients are very hesitant to ask the doctor about things, so very often they’ll ask staff,” explains Dr. Eiden. “They’ll even ask medical questions to our administrative staff, so it’s important to keep your entire staff very up to date on the latest technologies.”

One way to accomplish this: Schedule education sessions for product representatives and your staff members, says Dr. Glazier.

“In my practice, my staff not only makes recommendations during pre-testing, they also make small notes on the patient’s history/lifestyle form of what they’ve recommended, so I can continue the discussion during the comprehensive exam,” explains Dr. Eiden. “So, the communication among staff and the doctor is paramount when it comes to presenting the most appropriate treatment options to patients.”

Dr. Miller adds, you should train staff members to scrutinize the history/lifestyle form, so they can ask questions that prompt the patient into action. An example of such a question: “How much time do you spend outdoors?”

“Pre-testing staff are in an excellent position to get patients to personally identify their pain points and, therefore, their need for a solution,” she explains.

Another way for staff to plant the seed is by wearing new products.

“When the tech notes that the patient has astigmatism, for example, she could say, ‘Hey, I have that too, and I’m wearing _____, which is working great for me,’” Dr. Ciano says.


Once the patient is in your chair, continue probing him or her to determine his or her needs, as illustrated in Dr. Miller’s example above. (As is the case with staff, you too must be up to speed on the latest problem-solving advancements.)

“I think a lot of us assume the patient is ‘happy’ if he or she doesn’t complain, but I think a minority of patients complain, so you have to ask specific questions to determine whether they are truly ‘happy,’” Dr. Glazier explains.

For example, Dr. Glazier may ask, “Are you having any challenges with your contact lenses?” Should the patient answer “no,” Dr. Glazier doesn’t move on with the exam. Instead, he reviews a laundry list of common challenges, depending on the patient’s age and lifestyle.

“What happens is that the patient recognizes a challenge he or she didn’t before, enabling me to then discuss a new lens that can overcome this challenge,” he explains. “It’s up to us, as optometrists, to say, ‘look, you’re not really copacetic, and you don’t have to settle because technology can provide you with a welcomed change.’”


“I think all too often, we, as doctors, let our intimidation of price seep into our dialog with patients,” explains optometrist Josh Lahiff, of Cheyenne, Wyo. “Often optometrists will say, ‘Do you want to try a daily? I mean they’re more expensive, but you might do really well in them’ As a result of this dialog, patients think, ‘If my doctor is debating it, I don’t really need them,’ and they decide not to upgrade.”

Instead, he says, act excited and tout the ocular and lifestyle benefits to present a clear argument.

Dr. Ciano says the following script has been very effective: “There’s a new ____, and I can’t wait for you to try it! I’ve seen wonderful results, so I think you’re going to do really well with this.”

If he receives any push-back, Dr. Ciano replies, “If you don’t like it, that’s okay, but it’s my responsibility as your eye care provider to make sure you’re at least trying the latest and greatest.”

He says this dialog shows his patients his genuine intention in trying to make their quality of life better.


Explaining what’s in it for the patient is important. When he or she understands the value of the product, cost becomes a secondary consideration.

Minneapolis optician Melanie Burley offers this example: “Whenever progressive lens wearers tell me they spend a lot of time on a computer, I ask them whether their neck hurts during computer time — they always say yes — and then I explain that regular progressive lenses contain a tiny corridor for computer use, while computer lenses are made specifically for screen viewing, decrease eye strain and fatigue,” she explains. “Once you enlighten these patients on the fact that they won’t have to move their head up and down, place their monitor on tons of books to get the screen at the right level or rub their eyes, nine times out of 10, they buy the computer lenses.”

Optometrist Tanya Gill, of Oakland, Calif., says she’s been successful in upgrading her patients to daily disposable lenses by using the phrase, “Imagine how you would feel if I could put a drop of water in your eye that corrects your vision?”

“That one sentence has been so powerful because the patient replies, ‘That would feel amazing’” she explains. “Then, I discuss the ocular health benefits of the lens.”

If the patient interrupts you, your tech or optician with, “What’s that going to cost me?” Dr. Miller suggests you say, “Let me tell you about the benefits before we get into that.”

“This way, the patient can hear what’s in it for him or her before immediately saying, ‘No way’” she explains. “And should they opt out, it’s in the patient’s mind for the future, and I’ve definitely had patients return to purchase something previously discussed.”


Rather than “recommend,” prescribe a “treatment plan.”

“Right before I dilate the patient’s eyes, I review the refractive findings and what the individualized treatment plan is as a result,” explains Dr. Gill. “The patient then sees the optician and, more often than not, will get everything I prescribed. This process is all about the doctor outlining very specifically what those points are in the exam room.”

Dr. Eiden follows a systemic approach. He tells patients what the exam’s findings are, the corresponding options that will best address their needs and then shares his professional judgment for the most appropriate option.


Have the optician come to the exam room to pick the patient up. You could also drop him or her off in the optical. Either way, you, the doctor, can briefly review with the optician what has been discussed with the patient, which sends the message to the patient that what you’ve said is important and should be followed, says Dr. Lahiff.


Use practice newsletters, Facebook and email blasts to get the word out about new products.

“You want to create a face-to-face passion for whatever you have that’s new,” explains Dr. Ciano. “Post photos of new frame lines, a contact lens success story and your staff wearing new products on Facebook to get the word out.”

Dr. Eiden’s practice sends a bimonthly newsletter that includes the latest technology.


Dr. Miller’s aforementioned concrete supply owner patient has since told her that he uses his new lenses for night driving too and that he is very happy with them.

“We, as optometrists, need to find out our patients’ pain points, so we can provide them with a solution,” Dr. Miller explains. “As eye care providers that’s our job, and patients expect this of us.” OM