By Gina Wesley, OD, MS,FAAO
Contact lens patients are highly valuable to a practice. Yet, many patients drop out of contact lens wear–often without the ECP knowing–because of comfort problems that easily can be addressed. Being pro-active in lens care recommendations can improve patient comfort and reduce costly dropouts.
Thorough lens care recommendations can eliminate comfort problems and decrease the number of patients who drop out of contact lenses. Keeping patients in contact lenses is essential as it increases the loyalty and lifetime value of patients.
Contact lens care recommendations not only ensure success for your patient in terms of health, vision and comfort, but also make it more likely they will remain loyal to you as their eye doctor. If you are unsuccessful in determining what will work best for them in contact lens wear and care, patients may not continue to have faith in you as a source of eye health expertise. Failing to give patients adequate guidance on contact lens care amounts to gambling with the loss of a patient from your office, which can add up to thousands of dollars over the average time a patient commits to you and your practice.
According to “New Data on Contact Lens Dropouts: An International Perspective” by John Rumpakis, OD, MBA, a study published by the Review of Optometry in 2010, the loss of a single contact lens patient may cost your practice up to $24,000 over the patient’s lifetime.
I have more than 1,000 contact lens patients in my office which started “cold” 3.5 years ago. Our average lens dropout rate is around 10 percent and my sales of contact lenses and professional fitting fees bring in over 25 percent of my total professional revenues. By comparison, participants in the Management & Business Academy, sponsored by Alcon and Essilor, who have average annual revenues of $600,000, report that contact lens patients represent 16 percent of their gross revenues.
First-Time Wearers: Explain Importance of Care Regimen
I think my dropout rate is low because I make a concentrated effort to prescribe and explain to each patient the lens type and care regimen that is best for them. I have put several systems in place in my office to help us. I review the technology of patients’ lenses with them, how healthy the lenses are for their eyes, and why they need to use advanced technology solutions and care regimens to match that lens type. Their prescription from our electronic health record system details all of this, including replacement time and solution prescribed. We also guarantee our contact lenses so that patients know they can come to us if running short on lenses before their annual exam and get a pair to get them by, or switch out their lens supply if their powers change mid-year. All of this combined shows patients we go a step farther to make certain they are aware of how to care for their lenses.
Review Care with Established Wearers
For our established wearers, it is as much a review of what they should be doing as an “aha!” moment of “Here’s a new lens with better health benefits that more closely matches your current habits.” We ask open-ended questions and encourage candidness with our patients, as we want the truth and for them to not be afraid to tell us what they are doing with their lenses. Once we’ve determined that, we then work hard to educate them and switch them to new technology that more closely mirrors what they have been doing habitually.
I tell them that they are wearing an advanced technology lens, so it is important their solution matches that technology to guarantee the best comfort, vision and safety. Usually, I say something to the effect of, “I use generics in my everyday life for many things, but for some reason, when it comes to contact lens solutions, they aren’t as effective in cleaning and comfort as the name-brand solutions. This is why I’m prescribing ______ solution for you to use with your lenses.”
As patients literally “see” their success at wearing contact lenses long term they won’t look for another OD for help. During examinations you can subtly point out the success the patient has achieved with their contact lenses during their annual examinations and reinforce the importance of continuing with the care regimen.
Doctor: “How are your contact lenses working out? Are they still comfortable? Does the solution I prescribed last year still do a good job cleaning the lenses and keeping them comfortable in your eyes?
Patient: “Yeah, the contacts feel good. I’m happy with them. I’m still using the solution you told me about last year.”
Doctor: “I’m glad we were able to find the right contact lenses and the right care regimen to keep you in your contacts long-term. To make sure you keep your eyes healthy and continue to wear the contacts as comfortably as you are, it is important that you keep the regimen up. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if the regimen ever becomes a problem for you. There are always other contacts and other care regimens we can try.
By providing patients with the guidance they need to care for their contact lenses, you will increase your chances of keeping them in their lenses–and in your practice–long-term.
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Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO, is the owner of Complete Eye Care of Medina in Medina, Minn. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org