The prescribing of photochromic lenses and sunwear is a significant step in the optometrist’s goal to provide optimal visual performance and comfort to each patient.
Photochromic lens filtering significantly increases a patient’s ability to cope with and adapt to changing light conditions, according to Clinical & Experimental Optometry. Specifically, the study measured the glare disability, heterochromatic contrast thresholds, glare discomfort and photo-stress recovery time of three photochromic lenses vs. a clear polycarbonate lens.
Further, studies show UV radiation can play a role in the development of AMD and skin cancer, and blue light can adversely affect circadian rhythms, according to Eye & Contact Lens and Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, respectively. Sunwear also can provide physical protection from ocular injuries, such as flying objects entering the eye, and are an outlet for patients to express their personal style.
In 2017, 103.3 million pairs of sunwear and 13.2 million pairs of photochromic lenses were sold, according to The Vision Council. Of those sales, independent optical accounted for only 1.2% and 50.8% of unit pairs, respectively.
Here is how industry experts recommend you discuss these specialty lens products with your patients.
REQUEST ALL EYEWEAR
It’s widely acknowledged that patient interactions with office staff can be as influential to their overall experience as the time they spend with the doctor. This means that your staff can be a powerful source for the internal marketing of photochromic sunwear and contact lenses.
“Focusing on offering and educating our patients on photochromic lenses has worked for us tremendously well when we did it as a team,” says Oliver Lou, O.D., owner of Signature Eye Care in Cedar Park, Texas. First, Dr. Lou’s front desk staff plants the seed: “Please be sure to bring your everyday glasses, prescription sunglasses, sports glasses, computer glasses, reading glasses and backup glasses, so Dr. Lou can examine them to ensure all are providing you with optimal vision and comfort.” The conversation is picked up at the appointment by technicians who then ask the patients what features their lenses have, such as lenses that turn from light to dark when going outside, to further the conversation. And finally, the doctor recommends and prescribes specific lens features.
“All these touchpoints and mentions about photochromic lenses really translates to the optician and patient having a more meaningful conversation about these lenses and makes the patient much more comfortable trying the innovative technology,” says Dr. Lou. In following this procedure, the practice saw an increase in sales and satisfaction among the patients, he says.
DISCOVER PATIENT NEEDS
Practice management consultant Mark Hinton, of eYeFacilitate, a practice consultancy, suggests the doctor take the time to discover what visual demands the patient’s lifestyle, work environment and hobbies require. The reason: Having this information allows you to frame your patient education in a way that is deeply relevant to him.
Mr. Hinton explains that patients appreciate their doctor taking the time to ask lifestyle questions, such as what are their hobbies and professions, because, to them, it means the doctor is taking a genuine interest in addressing their visual needs. If this task is left to the optical staff alone however, patients may feel that the purpose of the questions is to upsell eyewear products.
START THE DISCUSSION WITH WHY
When presenting an optical solution to patients, it may seem intuitive to begin by outlining what products are being prescribed, followed by an explanation of how they work and finally why they will benefit the patient. However, Rohit Sharma, O.D., of Southern Eye Specialists, in Atlanta, suggests reversing this order and beginning with the why. This is a concept that has been popularized most recently by Simon Sinek in his TED Talk “How great leaders inspire action.”
Dr. Sharma explains that he discusses the patient’s symptoms, visual demands and environment to frame the solutions that he prescribes. For example, for a patient who has difficulty with regulating sleep patterns, he explains it may be due to exposure to blue light from digital devices (the why) and that photochromic lenses (the product) will help to resolve the problem because they absorb a significant portion of the blue light.
WRITE A PRESCRIPTIONc
One of the best ways to introduce eyewear solutions to patients is through doctor-driven dispensing, says Eric White, O.D., owner of Complete Family Vision Care, in San Diego, Calif. This consists of the presentation of a complete eyewear solution as a written prescription given to the patient in the exam room.
Every patient examined by Dr. White is given at least one prescription for eyewear that will be of personal benefit. Patients who would benefit from multiple pairs of eyewear are given a separate prescription for each pair. Each prescription outlines a list of lens features optimized to fit the visual demands for a particular activity or environment.
For example, a 34-year-old lawyer who enjoys cycling and fishing would benefit from photochromic lenses for extended comfort when outdoors and for short periods cycling to work during the week and a dedicated pair of sunglasses that have a high-wrap frame, polarized lenses and a mirror coating for fishing trips on weekends. Each of these products are written on separate prescription pads.
Dr. White says he finds that patients who are not able to fill all the prescriptions provided at the time of their exam leave with an understanding of which lens products are relevant to them and why, prompting them to return to fill their prescriptions when they are able to do so.
Dave Ziegler, O.D., partner at Ziegler & Leffingwell Eyecare, in Milwaukee, Wisc., recommends creating lens bundles in a good-better-best model. For example, a top-tier package could include a progressive lens in a high-index photochromic material with an AR coating filtering for blue light.
“Bundling encourages patients to wear the newest lens technology with lens packages that include the lens features they would benefit from,” Dr. Ziegler says. He adds other benefits: improved visual comfort for patients, simplified buying process in reduced number of lens options for the patient to consider and increased profit margin. “It’s simpler for the patient to process, and it helps them see how the different lens features added together will help maximize their vision.”
Dr. Ziegler’s practice has a more than 90% capture rate using this process.
Also in terms of bundling, Steve Vargo, O.D., M.B.A., IDOC optometric practice management consultant and "CEO Checklist" columnist of Optometric Management, recommends offering a discounted, non-prescription pair of sunglasses to contact lens patients who purchase an annual supply. This can be redeemed either the same day or within 30 days of purchase. If the latter, Dr. Vargo recommends sending the patient home with marketing materials detailing the promotion, which can be done with a graphic designer or via free web portals, such as Canva.
LEVERAGE MARKETING ASSETS
Through social media, practices have an opportunity to stay in touch with patients throughout the year. Utilize this as a piece of your overall marketing plan for sunwear and photochromic lenses.
A good place to start is to choose which platforms to engage on and which mediums to create content in, suggest Drs. Jennifer Lyerly and Darryl Glover, both of Defocus Media, a social media engagement consultancy for optometrists. Your patients will have different preferences when it comes to which social media platforms they are active on and what types of content they prefer to consume (for example, text vs. audio vs. video). Choose one or two platforms and one or two content types that you’re comfortable with, and measure patient interaction with each to inform how you should proceed from there.
When it comes to creating relevant content, identify and address topics your audience may be curious about. One way to do so is to stay up-to-date with current events. For example, National Sunglasses Day is on June 27. A practice could utilize assets for this promoted holiday across platforms. A photo shoot of current sunwear lines can be utilized in print ads in local newspapers and magazines for the month of June, in posters for the waiting room and in a social media campaign, taking advantage of The Vision Council’s promoted hashtags #NationalSunglassesDay and #SunglassSelfie.
Dr. Vargo also recommends using the materials provided to you by manufacturers in your marketing.
“Utilize as many of these high-quality assets as you can across all marketing channels – email, postcards and web banners for existing patients, and boosted Facebook and Instagram posts for both existing patients, who follow you, and prospective patients/customers, who have yet to discover you,” he advises.
Digital signs in the office also can display still images or videos to get your patients thinking about their eyewear at their appointments.
TRACKING THE RESULTS
An essential part of determining the success of integrating new strategies to better any area of one’s practice is tracking how well they are working. To accomplish this, Mr. Hinton recommends utilizing business analytics software to track performance trends after a new strategy is implemented. Continuing on the previous example, use your practice’s point-of-sale software to compare sunglass sales for June, following the campaign, to May’s sunglasses sales or June’s sales the previous year.
Doing so will allow you to identify patient-specific outcomes and trends (both positive and negative) for your entire practice, so you can take timely related action. OM
Fayiz Mahgoub is a fourth-year optometry student and host of the eye care technology podcast VisionTECH on Defocus Media.