By Nina Cox, OD
My patients have lots of choices in eyecare providers, so it’s important that my practice stand for something distinctive. I’ve found that the best way I can differentiate my practice is to personalize the care that I provide. That way each patient feels they have received individualized attention and a customized solution not available at the big box retailers down the street.
Some trends in the optical industry have worked against our ability to provide personalized eyecare. Manufacturers have consolidated over the years and now a few giants dominate ophthalmic and contact lens manufacturing. Their products are available everywhere. Even as these large companies continue to introduce wonderful new technologies, they have discontinued many niche products that well served the needs of small patient segments. These specialty products generated few sales and added complexity to manufacturing and distribution, so they were rationalized away.
• 50% of vision correction population has astigmatism of -0.75D or greater.
• 11% of astigmatic eyes require cylinder correction greater than -2.25D, the highest cylinder available in standard frequent replacement torics.
• 56% of the population with presbyopia has astigmatism of -0.75D or greater. For most presbyopic soft lens wearers, astigmatism is uncorrected and vision compromised.
• 5% of the single vision soft lens wearer population has corneal dimensions best fitted by a flatter base curve than available in standard frequent replacement lenses.
That’s happened in the contact lens field. The large companies have all but abandoned small patient niches including people with astigmatism with high-cylinder requirements or stability issues, people with special lens diameter or base curve needs including children and presbyopes with unique multi-focal design needs to accommodate pupil size and aphakes.
In my experience, perhaps 10-15 percent of the contact lens patients I encounter are at the tails of the soft lens parameter bell curves and unlikely to be satisfied by the off-the-shelf disposable lens options available everywhere. Standard lenses do not provide these special patients with adequate vision or comfort and represent a compromise, which is often rejected over an extended trial period. Even as these patients drop out from wearing standard lenses, they often retain a strong desire to wear contact lenses and continue to seek a solution to their unique needs.
The good news is that there are still a few specialty lens companies, including Unilens, which cater to the needs of these special patients. These companies provide a unique service that practitioners can leverage to enhance their own professional reputation as contact lens experts. Being a smaller, but well respected, company with excellent consultation services, I find Unilens to be very easy to work with.
For years it’s been my goal to find a solution for any patient who wants to wear contact lenses. I’ve created a local reputation as a contact lens specialist who won’t give up on a patient with unusual needs and a strong motivation to wear contacts. When a patient who has tried and failed in contacts several times finally succeeds with my recommendation, they talk about it to friends. Eventually, through this free word-of-mouth advertising, other hard-to-fit patients arrive at my door.
With its C-VUE® Advanced™ HydraVUE and C-VUE Advanced lines of custom torics, multifocals, toric multifocals and even single vision lenses, Unilens offers a broad range of monthly replacement options for patients with special requirements. The C-VUE Advanced HydraVUE line is built on a silicone hydrogel platform, enabling patients to enjoy the benefits of the latest generation of breathable soft lens materials.
The long-term benefits of prescribing specialty lenses that are not generally recommended at commercial eyecare locations, and often overlooked by private practitioners, include greater patient loyalty and more referrals. In the short term, fitting specialty lenses substantially increases revenue-per-patient. When patients buy four boxes of standard silicone hydrogel toric lenses they spend about $220 annually, yielding $110 in gross profit. By comparison, I sell four boxes of C-VUE Advanced HydraVUE custom torics for $800, yielding a gross profit of $260.
The special patients who wear custom lenses seldom complain about their cost. They have learned that their prescription is unusual and that they need a custom lens, not a cheaper, mass-produced lens. They are usually delighted that I have the expertise and have taken the time to find an effective solution to their unique problem. When it’s time for these patients to re-order lenses, they are unlikely to shop around for them on the Internet or with the optical chains, because they won’t find them there.
It bothers me to tell any patient “I can’t help you.” When my patients see that I’m dedicated to find a precise, customized solution to their unusual needs, price goes out of the loyalty equation.
Nina Cox, OD is the owner of Nina J. Cox, OD PC, an independent practice in Chesterfield, Va. She is a 1983 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (Salus University). To contact her: email@example.com