I’d like to share a pet peeve of mine about ODs: most of us only prescribe contact lenses if the patient asks for them. Many of those patients are current contact lens wearers who want to renew their Rx and some are people who want to try them for the first time. How did we ever get to this situation where the optometrist does not bring up the contact lens treatment modality for good candidates in the rest of the population?
If you change your approach on how your recommend contacts and if you change the way you fit them, you can build a huge contact lens practice. Those patients will buy contacts, eyeglasses and plano sunwear and they return for regular eye care much more often than non-contact lens wearers.
You can have a huge impact
The power of the doctor is really amazing. If you simply act enthusiastic about contact lenses and recommend them to a large number of patients whom you already see, you can double the number of contact lens wearers in your practice.
I’ll cover the obstacles you face and I’ll show how to be more profitable with contact lenses, but begin by recognizing that you can greatly increase the number of contact lenses you fit if you stop waiting for patients to ask for them. Instead, tell a high percentage of your patients that they can wear contacts and educate them on the benefits. Good candidates range from kids to senior citizens and the group includes presbyopes and astigmats.
The obstacles that we face in fitting far more patients with contact lenses are really of our own making, but our habits are quite ingrained and change can be difficult. Here are three factors that I think cause ODs to not fully embrace contact lenses:
Too much time needed. On any given day, when you are with a patient, you are probably short on time. There may be other patients waiting to see you or you may have a number of other responsibilities waiting for you. To bring up the topic of contact lenses seems impossible in many cases due to lack of time. Theoretically, you could reappoint for the contact lens fitting, but you would still have to discuss the concept now and patients seem to resist the idea of coming back for more eye care. We need to fix this time problem. I’ll tackle it in the next section, but you can’t be too busy to make more money. Hire more staff, delegate more and make your fitting process more efficient.
Feels like selling. Optometrists are sensitive to being viewed as a salesperson and if you bring up the idea of contact lenses, the patient might see it as selling. Please get over this antiquated idea! Contact lenses and eyeglasses are the tools we work with to correct vision defects and no one thinks poorly of you if you bring it up. You can even be excited about it.
You think the patient must be motivated. Some ODs feel like the patient must have a desire to wear contacts if they are to be successful. They think it should be the patient’s idea. This may have been true back in the day of PMMA lenses, but today, the average person can hardly even feel a contact lens on the eye. We need to move past our old outdated ideas about contact lenses.
Reinvent how you fit contacts
The best advice I can give you on how to increase your CL practice is to SIMPLIFY! Technology today has brought us products that are easy to fit and healthy to wear. The best way to improve profitability with soft contact lenses is to reduce the chair time.
Fit the patient the same day as the eye exam using technicians to assist you with all aspects of the service.
After the eye exam, tell patients they are good candidates and that you have a new contact lens that is amazing. Tell patients you’d like them to try on a free sample, just for fun and it will only take a couple of minutes. Let the patient wear the diagnostic contact lenses while they try on frames and sunglasses with the technician.
The technician will insert the trial lenses, check acuity and over-refract if needed. You can see another patient in the meantime and then circle back to approve the fit with a slit lamp.
Do not charge a fee to try on lenses in your office.
Use daily disposable lenses for the free trial without talking about any other modality. Don’t bring up wearing periods, but if asked, act like daily disposable is the best way to go.
If the patient seems uncertain, mention the benefits of part time contact lens wear for sports and social occasions. Talk about how easy contacts are today.
Do not discuss all kinds of bad things that might happen when wearing contact lenses.
If the patient opts for contacts, make insertion and removal training easy and fast. Ideally, this is also on the same day as the exam. The technician can review proper lens care and give the patient an educational handout.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.