Tap Opportunity: Daily Replacement Lenses for Astigmatic Patients

Advances in daily replacement toric lenses allow you to improve the vision of contact lens wearers with even small amounts of astigmatism.

Doctors and more and more patients know daily replacement contact lenses are the best choice for comfort and eye health. Until recently this option was not available to patients with an astigmatism who required toric lenses. That is no longer the case.  

A vast majority of patients have at least a small amount of astigmatism. Clinically significant astigmatism starting at about -0.75 DC affects about 35% of patients. The only barrier to tapping this market is misconception. Many patients with astigmatism had negative past experiences with an eyecare provider who told them they could not wear contact lenses or they would be more difficult to fit in contact lenses due to their astigmatism. With today’s technology, there are very few astigmatic patients who can’t fit into contact lenses.  

Maybe Even More Profitable Than Other CL Wearers

A study about the value of contact lens wearers by Mark Ritson, PhD, of London Business School, shows that contact lens wearers are 4:1 more profitable to an optometric practice than spectacle-only wearers over time. If it was a closer margin, the results could be questioned, but this creates such a large, overwhelming reason to fit all patients in contact lenses.

In addition, daily replacement wearers are significantly more compliant than two-week and one-month wearers. It is a win-win!  Patients love the convenience of daily replacement and the practice is more profitable.

A comprehensive business analysis of the different modalities and which patients are more profitable would be helpful to us all. The assumption would be that astigmatic patients are more likely to purchase contact lenses from their eyecare professional because their prescription is more specialized. We should each take time to analyze the business performance of the different modalities of contact lenses that we prescribe and look for trends over time to aid our financial and inventory planning.

Greater Loyalty and Opportunities for Referral

Focus on astigmatic contact lens patients because they are more loyal to their eyecare professional who can fit their prescription successfully. They will often refer more of their friends and family to you because of that perceived “extra care.” In general, contact lens patients come in more frequently and have a stronger relationship with their eyecare professional-a fact that is even truer of astigmatic patients who finally are able to wear the contact lenses they always wanted to wear.

Have the Conversation with Patients

With the enhanced wear-ability of daily replacement contact lenses, the greatest challenge is getting patients to give them a try. Given the chance to try daily replacement toric contact lenses, most of these patients become long-term, enthusiastic wearers.

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Wide Discrepancies Between Vision Care Attitudes and Practices, Says VISTAKON Study

While Americans rank sight as the most important of the five senses, a new survey shows that nearly half did not get an eye exam in the past year and approximately 30 percent do not believe that taking care of their eyes is as important as other health issues. The 2012 Americans’ Attitudes and Perceptions About Vision Care Survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of VISTAKON Division Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., tracked attitude and behavior changes among 1,000 US adults compared to 2006 benchmark data and revealed surprising discrepancies between attitudes about vision care and actual practices.

Results show a consistently high value placed on maintaining proper vision, although the number of respondents who indicated they do not regularly visit an eyecare professional increased 36 percent compared to 2006 (19 percent vs. 14 percent in 2006).  Alarmingly, approximately one in five (21 percent) US adults mistakenly agrees that they do not need an eye exam unless they are having trouble seeing.

“Despite knowledge and perceived importance, Americans are not making eye health a medical priority,” says Cristina Schnider, OD, senior director, Professional Communications, VISTAKON  “Seeing an eyecare professional regularly for a comprehensive eye exam will not only assess vision and the potential need for updated prescriptions, but it may also help identify and lead to a diagnosis of other health concerns such as hypertension and diabetes.”

Among the respondents who have a regular eyecare professional, the study shows an upward trend in satisfaction rates. Significantly more US adults are extremely/very satisfied with their regular eyecare professional, an 18 percent increase vs. 2006 (80 percent vs. 68 percent in 2006). When asked about the reason for their last eye exam, significantly more respondents noted that they had established a set eye exam schedule (32 percent vs. 29 percent in 2006) or received a reminder from the eye doctor’s office (20 percent vs. 17 percent in 2006–an increase of 10 and 18 percent, respectively).

Nearly 80 percent of respondents indicated they sought a referral when selecting their current eyecare professional, with a family member, friend or co-worker serving as the single greatest referral source (40 percent), followed by a health care provider (21 percent). Women were significantly more likely than men to seek referrals for a new eyecare professional (48 percent vs. 37 percent, respectively).

Sources for obtaining information on vision care products are also evolving. Eyecare providers’ offices remain the number-one resource–and the most trusted/reliable–but a growing number of US adults say they seek out a family member or friend for information.The Internet has gained traction as well; an increase of 33 percent of respondents cited this as an information resource for vision care (20 percent vs. 15 percent in 2006).

“These findings are consistent with data from a recent Harris Poll that showed three quarters (74 percent) of all adults have gone online at some point to look for health information,” says Humphrey Taylor, chairman, The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive. “As the influence of the Internet as a valued source of health care and medical information continues to grow, eyecare professionals need to work hard to ensure that they are providing the public with relevant, user-friendly and reliable information.”

Other findings from the Americans’ Attitudes and Perceptions About Vision Care survey included the following:

•    Many attitudes regarding contact lenses did not change significantly since 2006, with one exception
o    Compared to 2006, significantly more contact lens wearers agree that it is important to take lenses out daily to give their eyes a rest (93 percent, 2012 vs. 86 percent, 2006).
o    About one-in-five contact lens wearers (17 percent) say they wear daily-replacement contact lenses.

•    Cost is less of a barrier to vision care
o    Approximately three in ten adults (29 percent) agree that they avoid going to their eye doctor because of cost, a 12 percent decrease vs. 2006.
o    Two in three adults have some type of eyecare insurance coverage.

•    Vision correction surgery remains minimal
o    Six percent of US adults reported having vision correction surgery, compared to seven percent in 2006.
o    The likelihood to have vision correction surgery is significantly less, declining from 10 percent extremely/very likely in 2006 to six percent in 2012.

Where Do You Take Your Children for Eye Exams?

Independent eyecare practitioners (ECPs) seem to be the provider of choice for parents who have taken their child to receive an eye exam sometime within the past two years, according to The Vision Council‘s VisionWatch Parent-Child Vision Care Report.

In fact, 51.2% of all parents with children who have received an eye exam within the past 24 months took their child to an independent ECP for that exam. Parents with health insurance coverage, especially vision care coverage, were more likely than other parents to have taken their child to an independent ECP to receive an exam. Moreover, parents with children who wear prescription eyewear, particularly eyeglasses, and parents from households with high annual incomes were more likely to have taken their children to an independent ECP for their most recent eye exam.

13% of parents who have taken their children for an eye exam in the past two years went to an optical chain (such as Lens Crafters or Hour Eyes) for the child’s last exam. Optical chains were a particularly popular option for parents with children between the ages of 14 to 17 and parents with annual household incomes between $40,000 to $60,000. An additional 9.4% of parents took their child to a mass merchandiser location for the child’s most recent eye exam. Mass merchandisers were especially popular for parents who were not willing to spend more than $100 on their children’s eyewear.

Finally, a little over 16% of parents whose children have had an eye exam during the past two years took their children to a general MD. This was especially common for parents with more than two children living at home and for parents with younger children. Just over 8% of parents said they took their child to a department store or “other” location for their most recent exam.

What %?

Where did they go?

Why and What were the trends?

51.2%

Independent ECP

1.       Health insurance coverage, especially vision care

2.       Children who wear prescription eyewear

3.       Households with high annual incomes

 

16%

General MD

1.       Parents with > 2 children living at home

2.       Parents with younger children

13%

Optical chain

1.       Children between the ages of 14 to 17

2.       Annual household income between $40K-$60K

9.4%

Mass merchandiser

1.       Parents not willing to spend more than $100 on children’s eyewear

8%

Department store or “other”

 

1.       Does your practice actively promote seeing infants (e.g.: InfantSee)?

2.       Are you marketing effectively to children between the ages of 14-17?

3.       Does your optical have options for parents not willing to spend more than $100?

How Many US Adults Are Planning to Have an Eye Exam Soon?

Some 19.6% of US adults said they were planning to have a comprehensive eye examination in the next three months in The Vision Council’s December 2011 Consumer Barometer report. That figure is slightly up from 2010, when 18.9% said they were planning to have an eye exam in the following three months.

It’s time to review your recall system.  Here are the three steps you should implement today:
Step 1:  Move to a pre-appointing system. It is the most effective of the recall systems.  

Step 2:  Integrate your pre-appointing system with one of the practice management software programs to help you effectively manage your recalls.

Step 3:  Ask each patient for their preferred communication approach.  Is it US Mail, e-mail, text message or some other format?  You need to know this for each patient and use the preferred method with each patient.

Patient Wait Times for Eye Exam Appointments Are Usually Short

A Jobson Optical Research survey of U.S. adults conducted in June 2011 indicates that 84% of patients are able to schedule an eye exam within two weeks of their call to an ECP and 70% are able to book exams within a week or less of their call. This indicates that an excess supply of available appointment slots exists in most eyecare practices.

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