Pamela Lowe, OD, FAAO, of Professional Eye Care Center in Niles, Illinois, says that she has seen some surprising trends emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, she was chair of the Contact Lens Cornea Society of the American Optometric Association (AOA), and there was a lot of misinformation about contact lens usage. “That’s where I loved having my AOA hat and all the great colleagues throughout the country who are wonderful in the contact lens space, who really buckled down and said, “Look, patients need to know the truth, and the truth is that contact lens wear is safe when patients follow the guidelines for proper care and replacement,” said Dr. Lowe.
OPPORTUNITY FOR EDUCATION
Dr. Lowe has been a proponent of daily disposable contact lenses, and the heightened awareness around contact lens safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. For Dr. Lowe, that invites her to have conversations with her patients and review proper contact lens wearing guidance.
For some patients, that meant switching into a daily disposable contact lens routine. Yet, with the introduction of TOTAL30® contact lenses, she also has an option for patients who wanted to stay with monthly replacement.
The presentation of contact lens options has changed in the years that Dr. Lowe has been practicing. “In the late 80s, contact lenses were in this mystery vial. Patients didn’t know what a power was, what a base curve was, what a diameter was, and only the doctor knew that.”
More than 20 years later, Dr. Lowe highlights the importance of bringing the best to their patients in her practice saying, “we know how special a properly fit contact lens is for patients’ ocular health, as well as their overall vision and comfort.” She does that by emphasizing why she prescribes a particular lens, explaining how the features and benefits of the lens she has chosen address the needs revealed during the exam and by the patient’s comments.
For example, she tells patients that the introduction of “DAILIES TOTAL1® lenses was a game-changer in the contact lens world because it was the first and only contact lens with Water Gradient Technology. All that touches the patient’s eye is a cushion of moisture. That technology is available with TOTAL30® monthly replacement contact lenses.
For patients who want to stay in a monthly replacement lens and switch to TOTAL30® their reaction has been great. “When I get new patients, I love being able to tell them that there’s a technology that is different from anything that they’ve tried before.” It’s intriguing to them, she says. Her long-term patients expect her to introduce new technologies as they’re developed, thanks to the strong relationships built and the trust that goes with it.
A SURPRISE TWIST
Dr. Lowe says that she was surprised the first few times that patients told her they felt that their daily disposable lenses were wasteful in the way that they were using them now. These were patients who had shifted to working from home, and some put on their contact lenses only for an hour or two of Zoom meetings. For them, a monthly replacement lens that can be cleaned and reused the following day for a few hours felt like a better option for them.
“Being able to pivot to a lens that uses Water Gradient Technology that is durable and comfortable from day 1 to day 30 lends itself to these patients’ wearing style,” she says. She can recommend the option with confidence. “What’s unique about the TOTAL30® material is the Celligent Technology, which has properties that allow the lens to mimic the corneal surface. The nanofibers that make up that water gradient surface only let small molecules in, like water. So they help resist lipid and bacteria, but we still stress proper care,” she says.
The options available to Dr. Lowe and her practice today allow her to meet patients where they are in their needs. “I know in a busy day, it’s sometimes very easy to fall in the trap of not eliciting where the patient is,” she says. “For example, contact lenses wearers wearing lenses may just assume they are going to have lens awareness at some point each day. So they’re not going to bring that up – “unless we proactively ask these questions. We are always asking, ‘What is your goal with contact lens wear?’ and ‘How can I make that better than what you’re experiencing now?’”
Open-ended questions are so important, she says. “We used to do the traditional– check the patients in and know that they’re a contact-lens-wearer and say, ‘How are your contacts?’ What’s a patient going to say? ‘Oh, they’re fine.’” Patients typically walk into the exam room and think about the final steps of the transaction – getting their updated prescription and lens supply. “They don’t know there’s something different. That’s where the skilled contact lens fitter and technicians come in because we should be the ones saying, ‘Hey, we’re here to look at the science of what’s behind the products and match those up to your needs. So let’s have a quick check about that.’”
Dr. Lowe says she makes the most of her time when patients are seated behind the slit lamp. “I’ll ask questions in a very non-judgmental way such as: ‘Do you have to take out your lenses sooner than you’d like?’ It’s kind of your barometer because they don’t know what I’m seeing. They know I’m looking at the front of their eyes.” She calls those open conversation with patients a win-win and that can help her grow her business.
Dr. Lowe’s existing patient base and new patients coming to her practice is filled with opportunities to increase contact lens wear. From young myopes to emerging and established presbyopes, full-time wearers and part-time wearers, the candidate pool continues to grow and have a positive impact on the business.
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