Within the contact lens world, we often focus on the downsides of lenses: the complications and the shortcomings they’re associated with. It’s time to change that. In this article, we provide the opposite perspective. Although contact lenses are a medical device and, as with any such item, carry a certain level of risk, they are relatively safe when worn appropriately.

Contact lenses offer tremendous opportunities for patients and practitioners. Many patients may not even be aware that they are contact lens candidates. For those who are currently contact lens wearers, there are certainly ways to optimize their chances of success. 

Here, we discuss five key factors that are critical to take advantage of when enhancing your patients’ contact lens experiences.

This patient has approximately 3.00D of corneal and refractive with-the-rule astigmatism and wears multifocal gas permeable lenses.
This patient has approximately 3.00D of corneal and refractive with-the-rule astigmatism and wears multifocal gas permeable lenses. Click image to enlarge.

1. Identify Qualified Candidates

There are about 41 million contact lens wearers in the United States alone.1 Although this patient base deserves our continued attention, the more we focus on this demographic, the less we see others who may be in need of our services but don’t know it.

Patients who discontinued their lens usage stand to benefit from re-education efforts about newer, more contemporary lens designs and options. Often, patients who used to wear contacts are interested in wearing them again but have a preconceived notion of what their wearing experience will be like based on their previous wearing experience. Unfortunately, these patients are usually unaware of the continuous advances in contact lens options and technologies that could make their wearing experience more enjoyable and successful. Asking patients who have worn contacts in the past if they are interested in wearing them again is simply not enough. We need to have a proper understanding of the reasons they discontinued lens wear and offer them appropriate education on the technologies that now exist to help overcome previous unmet needs.

One of the biggest reasons patients discontinue lens wear is because of comfort issues.2 Although altering lens materials and surface properties attempts to counteract this, it is important to examine the ocular surface to identify those with dry eye—the largest cause of discomfort—who may benefit from treatment that would allow more comfortable lens wear down the line.3

Another missed opportunity lies with children, who are usually not offered contact lenses as a vision correction option until they are teenagers. We have found that intervening sooner rather than later, appropriately educating patients and parents and ensuring children are responsible and motivated are critical components of initiating successful lens wear in these young patients. These strategies have given us the chance to achieve a high level of fitting success in children with contact lenses. During an era in which the eye care community is embracing myopia management, the sooner children with progressive myopia are managed with contact lenses, the greater the opportunity to reduce myopia progression over time.

There is one demographic where 100% of the patients require refractive correction, yet the smallest number actually wears—let alone knows they are candidates for—contact lenses: presbyopes. Make sure to raise awareness about and educate them on their options and provide the advantages and disadvantages of each lens route to find the one best suited for each individual patient. Presbyopic patients have several options to choose from, including multifocal lenses, specialty toric multifocal lenses, part-time contact lens wear, distance-only prescriptions and even orthokeratology.

2. Discuss All Options

When correcting a patient’s refractive error, we must consider how responsible and motivated they are to care for their eyes and lenses, their financial restrictions, what designs their prescription is available in and best suited for and how frequently and for what they plan to wear their lenses.

For patients who do not require specialty lenses, daily disposable lenses are usually the lenses of choice. They provide the daily benefit of a clean, new lens of advanced material that enhances comfort. In recent years, daily disposable lens manufacturers have been providing options that offer most patients the refractive correction they require, including spherical, toric and multifocal contact lenses.

For patients who do require specialty lenses, small-diameter gas permeable lenses are available with central distance optics that progress to near optics in the periphery of the lens. Scleral lenses are also available in multifocal lens designs. 

3. Order a Year’s Supply

Patients are always looking for cost-effective and convenient ways to purchase their lenses. The way to do this is by ordering a year’s supply. This provides patients with lenses until their next eye exam and comes with rebates that are only available for those purchasing a long-term supply.

There is always the question of what happens if a patient orders a year’s supply of lenses but experiences a change in their prescription before they use up their supply. Our office, similarly to others, gives patients the opportunity to exchange any unused contact lenses with lenses that reflect their updated prescription. 

4. Order Convenient Shipping Options

There are several ways to deliver contact lenses free of charge to the patient. The most convenient is to have them available immediately after your patient’s appointment so that they’re able to leave with and begin wearing them immediately. Unfortunately, space constraints may limit the amount of contact lenses you can stock in your office. This means you need to be selective about the lenses you stock (if you stock any at all) and only carry the lenses you frequently prescribe.

It is of tremendous benefit, value and convenience to patients to have contact lenses sent directly to their homes. During months of extreme temperatures and weather, however, patients may not want to risk having their lenses left outside of their homes. In these instances, it may be more advantageous to send the contact lenses to the patient’s place of work.

5. Consider the Overall Experience

Patients are becoming increasingly more cognizant of advances in technology in all areas of their lives, including in the contact lens sector. As clinicians, we need to make sure we are providing all candidates—new, old and everyone in between—the option of contact lenses, educating them appropriately and doing our job to make theirs easier. In doing so, you will be able to fill an unmet need, provide for underserved populations and offer the best possible contact lens services to your patients, optimizing their experience with your practice and their lenses accordingly.  

1. Cope JR, Collier SA, Rao MM, et al. Contact lens wearer demographics and risk behaviors for contact lens-related eye infections—United States, 2014. MMWR. 2015;64(32):865-70.

2. Markoulli M, Kolanu S. Contact lens wear and dry eyes: challenges and solutions. Clin Optom (Auckl). 2017;9:41-8.

3. Pucker AD, Jones-Jordan LA, Marx S, et al. Clinical factors associated with contact lens dropout. Cont Lens Ant Eye. 2018;S1367-0484(18):30880-4.