Evaluate procedures to increase safety and ease patient anxieties.
Jason R. Miller, OD, MBA, contact lens columnist
Many procedures optometrists had in place pre-COVID-19 do not apply or are in need of some tweaking post-COVID-19 — at least in the short term. Offices may be installing slit lamp shields, new check-in procedures and frame sanitization protocols, but what about contact lens fitting procedures?
Here are some things to consider:
1. Allow patients to put in their own contact lenses
This may seem straightforward, but there were many times in the pre COVID-19 era when either myself or a staff member would apply a patient’s contact lenses in their eyes for them. This would often improve the wearing experience or save time. For example, applying contact lenses for the first-time wearer. This can reduce the patient’s anxiety about having contact lenses and often create a smoother initial experience, without the struggle of inserting contact lenses for themselves. Pre-COVID-19, this would then transition to the insertion and removal training. Other times this occurred include when, visually, patients are challenged with putting their lenses back in after an eye examination. For example, patients who are hyperopic, multifocal wearers and for those post-dilation patients who are struggling.
At least for the near future, I would not recommend applying anyone’s contact lenses. As with any other opening to the body, the eyes are a possible entry point for the disease. (And studies have shown this: bit.ly/covidjama.) I do not expect this to present any issues with new contact lens fits, but I would consider allowing more time for them to learn the insertion and removal process.
2. Evaluate your physical space and materials needed
Walk through your contact lens fitting process and determine if any modifications to your physical space are necessary. For example, consider adding face shields at your contact lens training tables and/or exam rooms. This may help prevent any cross contamination with your patients and staff during the insertion and removal process with contact lenses.
Additionally, when patients remove their lenses during the exam, consider providing a fresh pair afterwards, only utilize disposable cases, or allow the patient to keep the case their contact lenses were in. Do not try to clear and reuse those cases. This has been something we implemented at my practice while ago, but warrants discussion at this time.
3. Sanitization process
Finally, review your cleaning and sanitization process in the exam room and contact lens areas. Follow all CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces in the exam room. And make sure to wipe down any areas where patients could be using or involved with the contact lens fitting.
Contact lenses are safe to be worn during COVID-19, but it’s a good idea to take this time to reinforce the importance of hand washing prior to handling their lenses. This may also be a good time to re-fit patients into daily disposable lenses. Having a clean, fresh, sanitary lens every day may ease patient anxieties and provide an improved, cleaner wearing experience from the patient’s perspective. There are no reasons to reduce the number of contact lens fittings during the post-COVID-19 era, but consider some precautions to help prevent contamination and, possibly, the perception of safety. OM
This article is run online ahead of publication in the June edition. Read more from Dr. Jason Miller here. Find more coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.