As contact lens practitioners, patients come to us for our expertise. That said, we have limited time to gather a significant amount of salient data with regard to their overall health, visual concerns and demands. The good news: We can ensure patients are informed about these items and using the best possible technology to manage their vision in the safest way via this efficient five-step approach:
1 POSE QUESTIONS
Start by developing a way to quickly assess patient needs around vision, comfort and wearing experience. I find it valuable to ask a few targeted questions at the beginning of the exam. I go through possible issues with their contact lenses: visual blurring, discomfort during or at the end of the wearing day and any issues with contact lens handling. It only takes a few seconds and, I find, in many cases, a quick, simple verbal inquiry helps the patient to understand the purpose of a specific treatment plan, increasing the likelihood of adherence to it.
2 DISCUSS NEW TECHNOLOGY
Introduce new technology to your contact lens-wearing patients while going through the patient’s history. I pair these opportunities with areas of opportunity I have gained from gathering the patient history. For example, for a patient who may express some concerns about end-of-day lens dryness: “Since your last exam, new lenses have come out that should help with late day dryness.” For a patient who has no complaints, but wears a monthly lens modality, I say “Since your last exam, some new one-day contact lenses have become available that would be a good fit for you as well; they offer added convenience and, in some cases, added comfort.”
I always want my patients to know what is new and innovative in the market, even if they do not report problems with their current contact lenses. Yes, they may be having no problems today, but it will likely be 12 months before you speak to them again, so you want them to know that if a problem arises, you have a solution. Also, realize that patients will not consider an alternative contact lens if they don’t know about it. Worse yet, they may accept limitations of their current contact lenses, unless you let them know that you are able to address their issues.
3 UTILIZE MANUFACTURER TOOLS
Put to use the tools, such as fitting guides, that manufacturers have made available for us. Because fitting guides provide specific fitting characteristics, they narrow down initial lens selection and facilitate troubleshooting when issues arise. Thus, they are excellent time-savers. In addition to saving time, the use of fitting guides helps me gain “buy in” from hesitant patients to my plan. I do so by explaining to the patient the nature of a fitting guide. As patients can perceive something that is new will also be expensive and time consuming, I say: “These new contact lens designs come with guides that help me, as your doctor, to quickly assess the lens’s performance and know whether they may be successful for you. As a result, we an often complete a fit in the first visit.”
4 EDUCATE AND TRAIN STAFF
Train your ancillary staff to provide the many aspects of contact lens management, adding to the value of the encounter, while minimizing your chair time. For example, my staff members reiterate wear schedules and review with patients instructions for cleaning, disinfecting and lens replacement. Also, they manage all aspects of lens ordering and delivery.
Additionally, I have a designated staff member as the point of contact for patients who have post-contact lens fit questions or concerns. At my practice, we ask that patients contact us three to five days after the visit to report on the new contact lenses. Introduce patients to this person before they leave the exam room for their contact lens fit, and explain that they will speak directly to this staffer to relate their experience with their contact lenses.
Patients are busy. Often, I find the prospect of repeated office visits will deter them from wanting to try a new lens modality or material. If, in your professional opinion, you are trying something that poses little medical risk to your patient, thus not necessitating an in-person follow-up visit, take a minute to educate your patient and ask him to provide feedback by email or telephone. In my experience, patients are very appreciative of this new power and take the responsibility seriously.
All of this staff training allows me to maximize my time with the patient and also ensures that nothing important is missed.
TAKE STEPS IN YOUR OFFICE to ensure that your patients are receiving the best price point for their contact lenses. This may be something they are doing outside your office. It, therefore, increases transparency and is an added value.
At my practice, I have designated staff members who ensure patients receive the correct contact lenses at the best value. If the patient requests, our staff members will even check prices with online resources to be sure purchasing from us provides the best overall value.
5 CREATE PATIENT HANDOUTS
I have also found success in developing handouts for patients that explain my fitting process. For contact lens-wearing patients, a checklist could include questions regarding comfort and lens wear longevity. Example of questions: Do you take your contact lenses out any earlier in the day than you want to? Is your vision as clear, and do your lenses feel as comfortable just before you replace them as when they are new?
Have the designated staff member, who will be following up with the patient post-contact lens fit appointment, review this before the patient leaves the office.
6 OFFER DIRECT DELIVERY
Direct-to-patient delivery of contact lenses provides the same convenience that patients have come to appreciate in other aspects of their lives. Offering it to them through your office provides this convenience and the personal experience of being your patient. This method also saves staff time in stocking and/or receiving and dispensing contact lenses from your office, increasing your practice’s efficiency. I also ask patients to return to the office to drop off their used contact lens packaging, which we recycle, giving our office another touch point with our contact lens-wearing patients.
Explain Your “Why”
AMONG THE THINGS YOU’LL WANT TO DISCUSS WITH YOUR PATIENT:
→ Signs of contact lens issues, such as end-of-day dryness.
→ New technologies available since his or her last appointment
→ The tools you use and information you gather for a contact lens fit
→ Their point of contact, whom the patient can turn to for follow-up
→ Delivery options
TALK TO YOUR PATIENTS
Consider using these techniques to enhance your patient’s lens-wearing experience and elevate your contact lens practice, while maximizing the time of your patient encounter. As new contact lenses and services are regularly marketed directly to patients, via social media and TV, talking to your patients about what is out there, potential limitations of technologies, what materials new contact lenses are made of, costs to patients, etc., and sharing your expertise is key to ensuring their understanding. It has been my experience that an educated patient will be a loyal patient. OM