By Vince Zingaro, OD
Dec. 1, 2021
Multifocal contact lenses can greatly improve the lives of presbyopic patients, offering an alternative to reliance on reading glasses. But you first have to get patients to give them a try. Part of that process requires clearing up misconceptions about multifocals.
In both practices where I work, we have successfully educated patients about what is true, and what is not, about multifocals to the point that in both practices we are successfully fitting 90 percent of our multifocal contact lens patients. That means that 90 percent of the time, patients we fit in multifocal contact lenses decide to stay in and purchase the lenses from us. This has contributed to a 33 percent increase in total contact lens sales in these practices.
The presbyopic population increased significantly over the last decade and will continue to escalate as Millennials and Generation X emerge as presbyopes. These two groups are more inclined to wear contact lenses than the Baby Boomer generation. As they become the dominant presbyopic contact lens groups, it’s important for practitioners to educate patients on presbyopic vision correction and address misconceptions about multifocal contact lenses. Successfully fitting patients in multifocal contact lenses leads to increased patient satisfaction, increased practice revenue and increased referrals from happy contact lens wearers.
Here are three common misconceptions from patients and how each can be addressed.
“I tried multifocal contacts in the past and they didn’t work for me”
This is the biggest push-back that I see in my office to multifocal contacts. Often this is coming from a patient who has already dropped out of contact lenses. I usually ask the patient if they are sure they tried a multifocal lens rather than monovision. When I explain the difference between the two options, the majority of patients admit to trying monovision. I then explain to them the benefits of having binocular vision, and that’s often enough for them to give multifocal contacts a try.
For the patient who has truly tried a multifocal contact lens without success, I typically explain to the patient that the technology has changed dramatically in lens material, optics and modality, and encourage them to try again as we often find we can be more successful than in previous years. Patients want to solve their vision needs, so it usually doesn’t take much to educate them on why newer is better.
“I’m doing fine with my current combination of contact lenses and reading glasses”
If you ask most contact lens wearers, “how are you doing with your contact lenses?” you’ll probably get the answer, “fine.” Many patients are worried that if they complain about their contacts we will tell them they can’t wear them anymore. Others simply don’t know about the other options available to them.
As eyecare providers, educating our patients on all presbyopic vision corrections is important. Most patients who wear contact lenses don’t want to have to wear glasses; that’s why they got into contact lenses in the first place! These patients will have to rely on their reading glasses more often as time goes on, and may eventually drop out of contact lenses. This is something neither patients nor doctors want to see happen.
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I usually ask the patient what it would be like for them if they didn’t have to carry reading glasses around all the time for near vision. Then I try to enthusiastically present multifocal contacts and all the benefits they provide. Keeping the conversation positive motivates the patient to try multifocal contacts and helps increase the success of the fit.
“My friend’s doctor told her bifocal contacts don’t work very well”
I hear this too often in practice. It’s hard to pin down whether the patient is confused about contacts or she really has a friend whose eyecare provider is averse to fitting multifocal contact lenses. Either way, this creates a great opportunity to educate the patient on why you want to prescribe a specific lens for that particular patient.
I often explain that she is a good candidate for multifocal contacts because of her particular prescription. Sometimes I educate a patient on why daily disposable multifocal contacts are better for part-time lens wearers. I have told some patients that they need a lens with a high water content on the surface because of their dry eyes or excessive computer usage. It’s important that the patient understands why the eyecare provider is prescribing a specific lens for them. Once they understand, it increases the likelihood of success in the lens and builds confidence in the eyecare provider.
Bottom Line: Take Time & Care to Educate Your Patient
The common theme with each of these misconceptions is education. We, as doctors, sometimes forget that presbyopia is concerning to the patient and that there is an emotional impact of presbyopia that can be lessened with multifocal contact lenses.
Educating patients on all of their options puts the patient’s mind at ease. Many patients are unaware of multifocal contact lenses, and it’s up to us as doctors to present this option to them in a positive light.