Most contact lens discussions with an optometrist lead to a sale. Here are seven considerations when it comes to a proactive approach to contact lenses.
Compared to a global average of 25% of spectacle wearers taking up contact lens wear, Australia sits at a rate of 5%.1 There is a myriad of reasons for this. Still, there is also one solution that can combat a good number of these reasons – a proactive optometrist. According to research by MyHealth1st, 65% of all contact lens discussions with an optometrist lead to a sale.1
In addition to proactively engaging with your spectacle patients about contact lens wear, you have a better chance of keeping your contact lens patients in their lenses if you can be proactive about managing the issues they may be anticipated to encounter.
While optometrists are no strangers to contact lens prescribing, there are always things that can be done better. Here are seven considerations when it comes to a proactive approach to contact lenses.
1. Remember that many patients won’t ask about contact lens wear because they assume it’s not an option for them.
Here’s where being proactive really comes to the fore. Don’t wait for a patient to ask you about contacts because many of them won’t – even if they want to. There may be many reasons why a patient who would benefit from contacts never brings it up. They may have tried rigid gas permeable lenses decades ago and found that it felt like sticking a cornflake in their eye. They may have been told their prescription was too high for contact lens wear. They may have been happily wearing contacts until they became presbyopic, and their previous optometrist never gave them the next option. The fact is you don’t know whether your patient is interested in contact lens wear unless you ask them, and they may never know they have a chance at successful contact lens wear until you tell them.
2. Don’t assume that because your patients have been wearing glasses without complaint, they won’t benefit from contact lenses.
Many patients are relatively content with their glasses but have just never considered contacts as an option. Both glasses and contacts have advantages and limitations that your patient has simply never thought of. For example, your spectacle-wearing patient who works in a fast-paced kitchen may have never considered there’s an alternative to his glasses fogging up or slipping down his nose from sweat. Your patient, who’s a parent to a toddler and has been through three frame repairs in the last 12 months, could benefit from an alternative to wearing glasses on her face. There are, in fact, quite several scenarios where having the option of contact lenses could make your patients very grateful.
3. Remember that children can make suitable contact lens wearers.
It can be daunting for both practitioner and parent to fit a child in contacts. However, we know from studies that contact lens wear in children and teenagers can actually be quite successful. The rates of serious adverse events are no higher in children than in adults; in fact, in 8- to 11-year-olds, this incidence can be markedly lower.2 Contact lenses have also been associated with improved self-esteem and even school performance in children. So, don’t dismiss the idea of a contact lens discussion just because the patient in your chair is young!
4. Keep your contact lens patients updated about relevant contact lens developments.
Do you have a patient who used to wear contacts a decade ago but dropped out due to dry eye discomfort? Many newer-generation lens materials have been associated with longer wear times and improved comfort. Instead of never bringing up contacts again with your ex-contact lens wearer, consider what you can do to bring them back in. Offer them a trial of this new lens. Suggest they try the new cationic lubricating emulsion suitable for contact use. Also, don’t forget your astigmatic patients who now have more lens options than they did several years ago.
5. Stay educated and updated about contact lens developments.
As part of being able to proactively offer contact lens options in the best interests of your patients, naturally, you need to stay abreast of new developments yourself. This can look like keeping in touch with your regional contact lens brand representative, immersing yourself in news and educational articles in various publications such as Optometry Connection, or you may even choose to undertake further study in advanced contact lens prescribing.
6. Be proactive about managing your contact lens patients as they approach presbyopia.
Many patients will have dropped out of contact lens wear once they find their near vision is no longer adequate in single vision distance contacts. Some may have tried a multifocal contact in the past but found this to be unsatisfactory. With advancements in multifocal lens design (and materials better suited for the dry eyes of older patients), presbyopic patients can still be offered a trial of contacts again, even if they were unsuccessful in the past. Many contact lens reps will tell you that your presbyopes are a contact lens market full of untapped potential.
7. Take proactive steps to retain contact lens sales in your practice.
Losing patients and revenue to online sales is the bane of most, if not all, optometry practices. Nowadays, it is so easy for a patient to ask for their script and take it to an online retailer. Online contact lens sales need to be better regulated; most sites don’t even ask for a valid prescription. In addition to losing money to online contact lens sales, many practices will lose patients to follow-up as they no longer need to keep in touch with your practice to reorder their lenses. There can be several ways to reduce losing patients to online retailers:
- Preferentially prescribe lenses that are not available to purchase online if these are suitable for your patient.
- Make your contact lens pricing as competitive as possible. One survey found 62% of respondents cited costs as the main reason they purchased their contacts online.3
- Make it easy and convenient for your patients to reorder their lenses through your practice, by building your own e-commerce platform or offering free delivery. Over half of survey respondents preferred online purchases due to the convenience.3
Contact lenses have the potential to make up a significant proportion of your practice income if you do it right. To make the most of this market, you don’t have to be a contact lens specialist, but you do have to be a proactive practitioner.
- Mivision. “Massive” Industry Campaign to Boost Contact Lens Sales. https://mivision.com.au/. 2022. Available at: https://mivision.com.au/2022/05/massive-industry-campaign-to-boost-contact-lens-sales/. (Accessed February 2023).
- Bullimore MA. The Safety of Soft Contact Lenses in Children. Optom Vis Sci. 2017;94(6):638-646.
- Review of Optometric Business. Why Do Patients Purchase Contact Lenses Online Instead of from Your Office? https://www.reviewob.com/. 2013. Available at: https://www.reviewob.com/why-do-patients-purchase-contact-lenses-online-instead-of-from-your-office/. (Accessed February 2023).