The benefits and appreciation of sunwear vary across the patient spectrum. You likely have patients, fortunately, that live in their sunwear and really understand the benefits of vision protection, as well as comfort. However, many patients don’t realize the importance of sunwear until they need it…but are without: Cue the dad in the stands shielding his eyes and squinting, desperate to get a clear look at his son’s very first up-at-bat. As primary eye care providers, it’s our job to educate patients about the importance of sunwear, so it’s not an afterthought.
I’ve been able to accomplish this by employing the following five steps:
1 MARKET WHERE NOT EXPECTED
The optical is where one would expect to find sunglass options. Why not have a small display on your front desk counter that encourages patients to ask about sunglasses, who may otherwise not? To make it even more captivating, you could feature a “sun selection of the month,” and display/rotate through some of your favorites.
Additionally, consider placing a simple, educational sign on the back of your restroom door, or stall doors, that highlights the dangers of UV exposure. A few moments of uninterrupted notice; that’s priceless in marketing. We want enough time to catch your patient’s eye (pun intended).
2 INVOLVE STAFF
This starts with patient scheduling. Specifically, have front-desk personnel ask the patient to bring his sunglasses with him, so you, the doctor, can ensure they’re providing adequate protection. The fact that your staff has requested this of the patient plants the seed in his mind that sunwear is important.
Next, during the pre-testing portion of the patient’s visit, have the tech ask the patient for his sunwear, if he, indeed, has a pair, so she can briefly evaluate them. This is a good opportunity to mention, for example, that he should consider getting a polarized pair, as it reduces glare, which can decrease visibility.
If the patient doesn’t own a pair at all, the tech can educate the patient about the three types of UV radiation and how sunwear protects the eyes from UVA rays, which are not filtered or absorbed by nature and cause damage to the eyes.
Finally, in the course of the sunwear conversation, staff can discuss the benefits of their own shades to reinforce the significance of a “good” pair.
3 PLAY A PERSONAL ROLE
Once the patient is in the exam chair, you have a captive audience. Why not use this opportunity to continue the sunwear education process by tying their importance to a patient observation or complaint?
For example, if the patient has a history of allergies, you can talk about how sunglasses can help reduce allergen exposure. Should the patient have dry eye disease, you can discuss with him how sun exposure can exacerbate his DED symptoms by causing keratitis or increased photophobia and, therefore, how protecting his eyes from sun exposure, via sunwear, can help with symptomatic relief. If light sensitivity is an issue for the patient, you can talk about the different lens tints available and how they can enhance both vision and comfort. For the patient who has a family history of AMD, you can stress how sunwear is a must for retinal protection.
Finally, my patients hear year after year, no matter their age, “Regardless if it’s prescription or non-prescription, the most important thing is that you wear sun protection.” It’s the repetition that is key to communicate the importance.
4 HAVE A PAIR AT THE READY
You know your patients’ styles by their dress and/or their current pair of prescription glasses. Why not have your optician present him with a tray of sunglass options that complement his style at the end of your exam? Or, perhaps, contrast what the ophthalmic style is. Sunglasses give some leeway to be more daring in style for many patients. The simple suggestion either way by your optician gets the patient thinking.
5 RUN A PROMOTION
This can be particularly beneficial during winter months, when patients are less likely to think about sunwear. In my snowy state of Minnesota, for example, glare off the snow and ice is a real problem at times, and improving comfort while driving and being outdoors is important. In an attempt to educate and increase dispensing, running a weekly promotion that is pushed out on social media and in-office, may be an easy, cost-effective way to get patients to invest in a pair of sunglasses.
For instance, you could run a Facebook promotion that encourages followers to type their favorite sunny destination. Then their name gets put in a drawing for a chance to win a pair of sunglasses!
PROTECT AND PROSPER
Sunwear shields eyes from harmful rays, enabling clear vision and the enjoyment of an array of activities, while showcasing personal styles. Let’s educate patients about these benefits, so they recognize their importance and invest in a pair. OM