Though more patients have been trading in their reusable contact lenses for daily disposables in recent years, there are still many who have yet to make the switch. For some, this hesitancy may arise from a lack of education on the advantages of daily lenses, while others may have unexplored concerns regarding the higher price point.
To get more patients on board with dailies, it’s an important responsibility of the optometrist to educate patients on the distinct features and pros and cons of both disposable and reusable lenses. While patients frequently cite cost as a reason to stick with reusables, clinicians can assuage this concern through clear and honest communication with the patient, being sure to stress the value of disposable lenses aside from the price.
As an optometrist and owner of two private practice locations in suburban Utah, I have found that patients only feel like they’ve overspent on contact lenses if they don’t understand the value of what they’ve purchased. With consistent patient education, you can equip contact lens wearers at your practice with the information they need to determine which lens modality might best suit their needs and expectations.
While optometrists hold the primary responsibility for educating patients on disposable vs. reusable contact lenses during their exam, staff members also play a crucial role in continued patient education. Therefore, eyecare staff, along with the optometrist, need to be armed with accurate and compelling evidence to promote daily disposable lens success at their clinic.
Here, I’ll offer advice on how ODs and their staff can educate and encourage patients to give disposable lenses a chance, which may also help drive profitability at your practice.
|Since more patients have began using daily disposable lenses at my practice, the incidence of contact lens-associated red eye has significantly reduced. Photo: Jennifer Harthan, OD. Click image to enlarge.|
Exam Room Education
Today, daily disposable contact lenses are recognized by eyecare professionals as the safest and most convenient contact lens modality based on the results of various clinical studies. However, unless we communicate the potential advantages of daily lenses to our patients, they may be unaware of their value. Below are a few topics to consider discussing with the reusable contact lens or spectacle wearer in your chair.
Infection risk. While the rate of content lens–related ocular infections such microbial keratitis and Acanthamoeba keratitis is not significantly different between patients wearing daily vs. biweekly or monthly lenses, research has shown that dailies do seem to reduce the severity of these infections.1
To explain to patients how risk of infection compares between lens types, one of our associate optometrists, Todd W. Mumford, OD, describes how he might approach the conversation in the exam room.
“Contact lenses absorb our tears, which is good,” he tells the patient. “Anything else that lenses absorb—like pollens or air pollutants, for example—aren’t so beneficial Compare a new kitchen sponge with one that has been used for a whole month. Does an old sponge still smell great or look the same? Well, that’s essentially what we’re doing with a monthly lens. Yes, you may be disinfecting and removing them every night, but by its very nature, the lens is absorbing things. A daily disposable lens reduces this worry.”
It’s also helpful to point out that the FDA recommends that children use disposable rather than reusable lenses due to the reduced risk of infection.2
Compliance. Daily lens wearers are the most compliant when compared with biweekly or monthly lens wearers, though rates of overnight wear are similar across all lens modalities.3 Not only can good compliance benefit the patient, but it may also increase revenue for your practice, explained Pamela A. Lowe, OD, in an article for Review of Optometric Business on how to reduce contact lens dropout.4
“The average spectacle-only lens wearer returns for comprehensive eye care approximately every two to three years, and the average contact lens wearer returns in 12 to 18 months,” Dr. Lowe reported in her article. She then cited research showing that “compliant contact lens wearers return three months sooner than noncompliant wearers, and compliance increases with frequency of lens replacement (two-week replacement: 34% compliance rate; monthly: 67%; daily: 87%).”4
One study also found that reasons for noncompliance vary based on lens replacement frequency.5 The data showed that “forgetting which day to replace lenses” was a main contributor to noncompliance in monthly and biweekly lens wearers, while those wearing dailies often cited cost savings as the reason for their noncompliance.5 Therefore, patients wearing reusables who struggle with remembering to replace lenses on time—especially elder patients or young children—might particularly benefit from dailies.
|Dr. Mumford and two of our opticians (Brooke Turley, far left; Delys Williams, far right) at the contact lens insertion/removal station at Vision Source of Farr West, where we show patients how to safely insert and remove contacts during their evaluation.|
Flexible wear schedule. This potential benefit of disposable vs. reusable contact lenses may be especially advantageous for those who have work or home life schedules that vary from day to day, which is a reality for many following the COVID-19 pandemic. Shane Foster, OD, explained in an article for Review of Optometric Business that since the start of COVID-19, he’s noticed that many of his patients have switched up their contact lens wearing habits due to the rise in remote work.6 He pointed out that, in his practice, the pandemic has “brought many long-time contact lens wearers in for an updated pair of glasses because their work-from-home schedules found them wearing their spectacles more frequently.”6
Consider discussing this advantage of disposables with your patients who choose part-time lens wear and/or have varying daily or weekly schedules. Dr. Foster pointed out in his article that “it’s a great option because [these patients] don’t have to worry about how long a pair of lenses may have been sitting in solution in a case. They can get a fresh, clean pair of lenses each time.”6
Cost considerations. Although the higher sticker price of dailies is a common deterrent for patients who currently wear reusable lenses, there are numerous other considerations that play a role when comparing the value of different lens modalities.
For example, disposable lenses are the only type that don’t require additional costs for cleaning, disinfecting and storing. Biweekly or monthly lens wearers spend up to $150 to $200 a year on contact lens solutions, a cost that is eliminated when a patient switches to dailies.7
It’s also much cheaper to replace a lost or damaged daily contact lens than it is to replace a monthly one. This could be an enticing selling point for patients or parents of younger children who tend to lose or misplace their contacts more often.
Rebates may also significantly reduce the monthly cost of dailies for some patients, though the exact amount of savings is variable. Having an optician reiterate this possibility to the patient during the cost presentation post-exam could help alleviate some of their concern about the upfront costs.
One critical point is to be transparent with patients about pricing. After a contact lens evaluation, opticians at our office present patients with the total amount they’re going to spend that day, the price of a year’s supply and the exact amount that insurance is contributing, as well as any discounts that are available to them if they order the lenses through our office. This prevents cost surprises, allows patients to understand exactly where their money is going and helps them build trust in you and your staff.
If patients are hung up on the price of dailies, it’s helpful to stress that contact lenses are an investment that keep our eyes healthy, improve vision and enable us to better perform everyday tasks. Plus, with the lowered risk of severe infection, it’s even possible that daily lenses could help to avoid unexpected eyecare costs and visits for certain patients over time.
Environmental concerns. Patients who are trying to reduce their ecological footprint may object to the amount of waste created by disposable products; however, they may be pleased to know that there are greener ways to wear daily lenses. While contact lenses and blister packs can’t be recycled locally, they can be collected and periodically sent to TerraCycle for recycling (visit terracycle.com for more information). The program is sponsored by Bausch + Lomb, but all brands of lenses and blister packs are accepted. Additionally, the cardboard boxes that daily lenses come in can simply be recycled as usual.
CooperVision has also partnered with a company called Plastic Bank, which pulls plastic pollution out of coastal communities for recycling.8 The production of CooperVision’s microplastics is offset by recycling other plastics already out there, making for a net-plastic-neutral contact lens. The following CooperVision lens brands are now net-plastic-neutral and may be better-suited options for your more environmentally cautious patients: Clariti 1 Day, MyDay, MiSight 1 Day and Biofinity.8
|Daily lenses can significantly reduce (but not eliminate) patients’ risk of severe infections such as Acanthamoeba keratitis. Photo: Suzanne Sherman, OD. Click image to enlarge.|
Trial Period Pearls
Our contact lens patients who are trialing a new lens are encouraged to wear them daily for one to two weeks before returning for a contact lens follow-up evaluation. This allows the eyecare practitioner and the patient to recognize the success of daily lens wear, as well as gives support staff an opportunity to educate and close the sale. An estimated nine out of 10 patients in our office recognize after a week or two that the comfort and convenience of daily lenses exceeds that of reusables, and they return excited and ready to purchase their lenses.
Patients switching from biweekly or monthly to daily lenses might take several weeks to notice an improvement in comfort. This is usually because daily lenses offer patients the feeling of a clean, fresh lens every day, whereas monthly lenses tend to wear out throughout the month. You or an optician at your practice can help patients recognize improved comfort by reiterating what the patient has shared so far about their experience. Point out that the patient has been wearing the new lens for a couple of weeks and reports that they are still comfortable.
There are certainly some patients with reusable contacts or spectacles who are hesitant to trial dailies. I encourage these individuals that a lens they haven’t previously tried can reset expectations. As for patients who do opt for the trial, some recognize immediately that there may have been comfort or convenience issues with their biweekly or monthly lenses that they simply didn’t notice until trialing daily lenses.
Final Considerations From a Practice Owner
In 2013, roughly 10% of our lens sales from my two clinics were daily disposables. Today, that number has surpassed 70%. As patients embrace modern daily lenses, I have seen clinical improvements in ocular health. For example, I have treated significantly less contact lens–induced acute red eye response, giant papillary conjunctivitis and infiltrative keratitis over the last decade since a greater portion of my patients have made the switch to dailies.
Daily disposable lenses do cost more on average than monthly lenses, but remember to explain to your patients that a portion of that cost differential is minimized due to rebates and lens care supply savings. A patient should easily recognize the value of the remaining cost differential if they have a positive contact lens evaluation experience.
Patients frequently tell me that they love wearing comfortable and safe contacts, and I often reminisce with patients about the days when they felt like they were wearing “rocks in their eyes.” Modern practices should embrace modern technology. Many offices have made significant investments in diagnostic equipment. Why do we sometimes fail to offer the latest contact lens options with daily disposable lenses?
Lastly, for our practice, daily disposable lenses have proven more profitable. According to my recent pricing analysis, our office can net $100 or more per spherical daily disposable annual supply compared to a spherical monthly lens annual supply.
Patients will understand the value of daily disposable lenses when the advantages of these truly cutting-edge contact lenses are frankly discussed during the exam process. Contact lens trial experiences and full transparency of cost can help prove value to patients. They will appreciate your progress towards improved vision and comfort when they’re given the opportunity to wear comfortable daily disposable lenses, and you’ll ultimately generate more income by also doing what’s right for the patient.
Dr. Whipple is an optometrist at and owner of Vision Source of Farr West in Utah. He is a paid consultant and speaker for CooperVision and owns stock in CooperVision and Bausch + Lomb. Dr. Whipple is also a paid speaker for Marco Ophthalmic and co-founder and co-owner of Eyewear Stream.
1. Szczotka-Flynn LB, Shovlin JP, Schnider CM, et al. American Academy of Optometry microbial keratitis think tank. Optom Vis Sci. 2021;98(3):182-98.
2. US Food & Drug Administration. What to know if your child wants contact lenses. Published August 27, 2020. www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-know-if-your-child-wants-contact-lenses. Accessed February 22, 2023.
3. Rueff EM, Wolfe J, Bailey MD. A study of contact lens compliance in a non-clinical setting. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2019;42(5):557-61.
4. Lowe AP. Secrets to having nearly 50% of patients in CLs & less than 10% dropping out. Review of Optometric Business. Published September 14, 2022. www.reviewob.com/secrets-to-having-nearly-50-of-patients-in-cls-less-than-10-dropping-out. Accessed February 22, 2023.
5. Dumbleton K, Richter D, Woods C, Jones L, Fonn D. Compliance with contact lens replacement in Canada and the United States. Optom Vis Sci. 2010;87(2):131-39.
6. Foster S. 3 actions we took to keep patients in CLs & increase dry eye product sales 16.5%. Review of Optometric Business. Published December 7, 2022. www.reviewob.com/3-actions-we-took-to-keep-patients-in-cls-increase-dry-eye-product-sales-16-5. Accessed February 22, 2023.
7. Steinheimer L. How much do contact lenses & fittings cost? Published February 3, 2023. www.visioncenter.org/contacts/cost. Accessed February 22, 2023.
8. CooperVision. CooperVision expands plastic neutrality initiative to include Biofinity and MiSight 1 day in the U.S. Published January 11, 2023. coopervision.com/our-company/news-center/press-release/coopervision-expands-plastic-neutrality-initiative. Accessed February 22, 2023.