By Dave Anderson, OD
Feb. 24, 2016
Participating in contact lens clinical studies allows your practice to be on the cutting edge of new optical products. This also enablesyou to send a message to patients that your practicecan serve their visual needs with the latest technology. Other medical providers are sending your patients a high-tech message, and optometrists need to do the same.
We currently participate in three contact lens studies. We are in the middle of a long-term, extended wear study that includes a full year evaluating a specific lens and the ability to sleep in the lens for up to six nights a week. We are also involved in comparative studies looking at a new toric contact lens as it compares to existing competitors. In addition, we have evaluated new materials in FDA studies, new lens modalities, new solutions and several other new products over the last five years.
In the coming years, I hope to get more involved in the contact lens studies surrounding myopia control in children.
Most of our studies have been with one company, but we hope to expand our studies to other companies, as we have proven to be a reliable source of patients, and a practice that completes studies without major issues.
The CL studies roll out and have a very short window for enrollment. There is little need to “advertise” this as we have usually 1-2 weeks to get the patients enrolled. Occasionally we will post on social media, but generally we use our EHR to mine patients and make calls.
The page on Dr. Anderson’s practice web site devoted to contact lens services. Dr. Anderson says participating in contact lens research allows your patients to have the latest in contact lens technology, sending an important message about your ability to serve them.
Be Among First to Offer New Products
The great thing about a contact lens study is the benefit to the practice. Beyond the additional practice revenue the study brings to the office, there are many other benefits. One great benefit is being an early tester of a new product, which allows us to provide the product to our patients after the study long before most other practices.
Being involved in contact lens studies also tends to be a big patient retention tool. Participantsusually are grateful for the opportunityand likely to let friends and family know about the advanced treatment they receivein our office.
Some patients participating in the studies are seen up to 10 visits, but some are just seen for three visits in a two-week period.
As many times as patients are seen during the course of a study, the more a friend of the practice they become, and the more a sense of belonging they have. Patients also love to see that our office is on the very edge of new products and materials, and this shows that we are not just the average contact lens practice, but one that is always looking for better options for our patients.
The other side benefit are the payments for patients. Several patients took their payments for their participation in the study, and used it to pay for a new pair of glasses or sunglasses that they may not have otherwise purchased. In fact, for one study, completed at the end of December, of the 18 patients, five purchased an additional pair of glasses that they admitted they had not planned to do without the additional study money.
CL Studies: How It Works
GET INVOLVED. Reach out to the contact lens rep from your practice’s most used contact lens company, and indicate interest in helping with contact lens studies. Continue to indicate the interest.
NOTE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS DOCTOR. The doctor is involved in investigator and monitor site visits, along with submission of data. Once the study begins, the work involved surrounds collecting information about the patient.
IDENTIFY PATIENTS TO PARTICIPATE. Your electronic health record system has information collected based on your prescriptions and patient demographics. Then, simply create a custom search within your EHR based on the specific parameters for the study.
NOTIFY PATIENTS OF LEGAL RIGHTS. Patients need to sign a document notifying them of their rights before proceeding because no patient may participate without agreeing to all the specifics on the informed consent sheet they are given by the practice.
PREPARE STAFF FOR CL STUDIES. Appoint a good study coordinator to follow the protocol of a study and tracking study material and data collected. Staff can be paid the total study sum based on a percentage equal to their involvement. —Dave Anderson, OD
Enhance Practice Brand
Our practice is clearly viewed as a very cutting edge and advanced contact lens practice. We mention the contact lens studies we participate in to all our patients when we have new lenses and are on studies, and we always have a list of patients ready to try new lenses.
This allows any of our recommendations to carry more meaning as our patients understand that only a few practices are able to be included as contact lens study offices. One example of this occurred during a new patient encounter a few months ago. A patient came to me after receiving a referral from a co-worker who was participating in a study. She said she was in our office trying to find a lens that performed better, and she figured that I would be a great option since I am involved in contact lens studies.
Gauge Needed Time & Money Investment
One specific cost that we have incurred is the additional time that is spent training staff, or paying staff extra for the additional hours needed to complete a study. This varies significantly, depending on the study. Some are very labor intensive, and some are mostly dependent on the doctors time.
There was no additional equipment needed to participate in contact lens studies, as this was provided at the initial onset of our first study. The extra money spent on staff is compensated by the study payments to the office, so there really is no additional direct cost that is not covered by the study payments.
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