The typical contact lens business may be missing a substantial opportunity to grow if its staff members are not adequately informed of the value that contact lens wearers bring to an eye care practice. Totaled up over their lifetime, this population represents a considerable source of potential revenue.1 As such, it is important for practitioners to consider how they currently incorporate contact lenses into their repertoire and what steps should be taken to continue moving forward—whether it’s securing new wearers or upgrading existing ones. This strategic plan can’t be implemented by the doctor alone, however. Instead, it all starts and ends with the practice’s staff. 

Ensuring each patient receives enough attention from the doctor during the overall encounter is key to a successful visit. As in any business, adequate preparation and reliance on support from your staff can help make this happen. Though some practitioners may find it challenging to allow others to help with the contact lens exam, it can free the doctor up to investigate another concern, interpret data from scans or even move on to the next patient. Encouraging your contact lens technicians to gain further education with contact lenses and achieve certification allows them to record patient history, assess lens fits and perform overrefractions, potentially even smoothing the patient exam process enough to allow for an extra exam or two.

The History
Start by making an effort to understand how the patient uses their eyes throughout the day. Proper questioning should include asking how many hours per day they spend on a digital device, as technology is now an integral part of our daily life. Next determine the number of hours each patient wears their contact lenses per day, including how many of those are “comfortable” hours. Inquire specifically about their “end of day” comfort.

Other small steps that may improve efficiency with contact lens wearers include:

1. Institute in-office messaging. Whether to help with diagnostic lens fitting or first-time contact lens training courses, the ability to communicate with staff members makes the adoption of any changes smoother and more effective. For example, the use of signaling systems, texting or computer programs can help improve the flow of information. Additionally, having a point person outside the exam room ready to relay any necessary directions can ensure clarity.

2. Keep diagnostic lens banks up to date. Not having the necessary diagnostic lens in your stock means that certain patients cannot be fit—and if they’re already waiting in the exam chair, this constitutes a serious problem. Thus, when training staff members on contact lens exams, also check which diagnostic lenses you have on hand and order the missing ones. 

3. Spread the knowledge. Make sure that multiple staff members have the capacity to help with contact lens insertion and removal. This ensures someone is always there to jump in and help with this sometimes time-consuming process. 

Tips for Training

First and foremost, all staff members should know how to talk to patients about their contact lenses. This starts in the front office with the answering of a patient’s phone call. Have them mention contact lenses at some point during this call: whether it’s to remind the patient to bring in their old prescription or to consider the possibility of trying lens wear, introduce them to the concept of exploring contact lenses during their next visit. 

This conversation then continues with the technician, so get them on board to discuss new opportunities specific to the patient’s prescription or introduce other lens possibilities to them. For example, if the patient is a current wearer who uses monthly disposables and complains of discomfort towards the end of their wear cycle, daily disposables or lenses made from more oxygen permeable materials are alternatives the technician could suggest.

On the other hand, if the patient has never worn contact lenses before, the technician can ask them the during the pre-test if they’ve ever considered trying them, and to talk to the practitioner if they’re interested. Ask the technician to make a note in the patient’s chart if this is the case, so that the desire can be followed up on. The technician may also be the ideal person to provide the patient with contact lens fitting fees and annual wear cost estimations.

For the practitioner, the key to a successful visit is for them to listen to the patient’s concerns, their needs and desires for a contact lens. Always offer them the best lens choice to meet those requirements, but also consider individualizing prescribing habits to meet a patient’s lifestyle, even if they don’t explicitly ask for it. Let them know you wish to ensure their lenses are the clearest and most comfortable option for their circumstances and, above all, state the expectations for success up front. They may thank you.

Considering the Environment 
In addition to strengthening your staff’s education, offer them the chance to work with the most innovative products. Though some diagnostic equipment may be reserved for those patients who are complaining of symptoms, many who present simply looking to refill their old prescription can also benefit. Patients are often busy in their own world and are not up to date on events or developments in contact lens technology. This allows for an opportunity to not only demonstrate the newest advancements to the patient, but also for staff members to use these pieces of equipment.

If the patient does not opt to move forward with contact lens wear, have your opticians make one final offer. Consider quickly re-evaluating your protocol and make that offer while they are choosing frames. A study analyzing the fitting process with non-contact lens wearers found that fitting all suitable patients with contact lenses prior to spectacle dispensing not only makes the frame selection process easier, but also is a good way to get patients interested in contact lenses.2

In conclusion, communication is vital. Constant communication between all members of the office staff—from the receptionist to the practitioner—will enable better cooperation towards the end goal of growing the contact lens business. Each staff member should extend the office philosophy in each patient encounter, delivering a consistent message. Take note: this does not mean that everyone in the office needs to be an expert in contact lenses; rather, they should simply be kept aware of the fitting process and the newest lens technologies available. This approach may help you own the contact lens market in your area.  

1. Rumpakis, John MB. New Data on Contact Lens Dropouts: An International Perspective. Review of Optometry, 2010 Jan.
2. Atkins NP, Morgan SL, Morgan PB. Enhancing the approach to selecting eyewear (EASE): a multi-centre, practice-based study into the effect of applying contact lenses prior to spectacle dispensing. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2009 Jun;32(3):103-7.