By Jason Miller, OD
You have an opportunity to help children and teen patients improve their vision and build family loyalty to your practice by moving more young people into contact lenses.
Children in Contact Lenses
My practice, EyeCare Professionals, keeps young patients happy in contact lenses. Pediatric contact lensesare a growth segment of our practice.
Overall CL Patients
Value of CL Patients
$400 per patient annually
Children CL Patients
One-thirdofall CL Patients
Adult CL Drop-Out Rate
Child CL Drop-Out Rate
1 to 2 percent
According to Key Metrics: Assessing Optometric Practice Performance, a publication of the Management & Business Academy (MBA) sponsored by CIBA VISION and Essilor:
–16 percentofpractice revenuecomesfrom contact lenses.
–Highest CLgross revenue performance decile for MBA participants: 32 percent.
Calculate New Potential CL Patients
AtEyeCare Professionals, children and teens make upone-thirdof our 1,687contact lenses-wearing patients. With each contact lens patient bringing us $400 annually, and 40 percent of our annual revenues derivedfrom contact lens patients and sales, encouraging young people to try contact lenses is a significant revenue-driver. Young people also respond better to contact lenses than adults sinceeyes tend to be more resilient in youth, with conditions like dry eye less common. Thecontact lenses drop-out rate foradults in our practice is about 10 percent, but the drop-out rate forchildren and teens is no more than 1 to 2 percent.
In addition to providing active children and teenswith improved vision, moving ready young people into contact lenses can foster greater patient loyalty. Parents who trust an eye doctor enough to put contact lenses in their child’s eyes are unlikely to jump suddenly to another doctor. There also is a good chance that when children become adults, they will stick with the doctor who successfully introducedthem to contact lenses.
Speak to Parents and Children, Together
With both parent and child in the exam room, I will ask the parent and child if they had thought at all about contact lenses. The typical age for this conversation is 10 or 11, or middle-school age. I might say something like: “Have you ever considered contact lenses? Johnny would be a great candidate because of all of his extracurricular activities. Today’s contacts are very safe, and enable us to maximize vision and eye health.”
If the parent and child are both interested, I ask the child if he would like me to place contact lenses in his eyes while his eyes are numb from the anesthetizing drops I use to perform the Goldman Tonometry eye pressure test. Inserting thosefirst lenses when the child’s eyes are numb ensures the child’s first experience with contact lenses will be positive. It also reduces chair time, as95 percent of the time I can get them in on the first try.
Kid-Friendly Lenses, Train Compliance
Whenever possible, I put young people in single-use disposable lenses. That way, the maintenance routine is as simple as tossing the lenses in the trash at the end of the day.Contacts that you change every day also help the child whomay participate in activities such as swimming that contaminate the lenses with bacteria or irritating chemicals.
Whatever lens I prescribe, each young person is given an hour-long contact lenses training session with my staff. They are asked to take the lensesout and put them back in a few times to ensure they are able to do it easily and safely. They also review the proper maintenance routine.Our staff explains to them whyit’s important to throw the contacts out every night and put in a new pair in the morning, or (iftheyarewearingsomethingother thansingle-use contact lenses) why and how they need to clean their lenses with solution (and which solution to use).
Ask Parent to Oversee Compliance
We usually put young people through this training immediately following an enthusiastic response to trying on contacts in the exam room. I capture that excitement by asking the parent if it’s OK to have the child spend some time(estimate an hour) in contact lenses training following the exam. I’m careful to point out exactly how long the training will take so the parent can leave the child with us and run errands for an hour if they are harried. Sometimes it’s better to not have the parent there when the child is learning how to insert the lenses because we’ve found the presence of a parentcan makethe child nervous. When theparent picks the child up, however, we are careful to debrief with him or her exactly what we went over with the child, and ask the parent to oversee the child’s maintenance routine. At night, for instance, they should check on contact lenses hygiene just as they would any other part of child’s bedroom routine. They might get into the habit of asking: “Have you brushed your teeth and thrown out (or taken out and cleaned) your lenses?”
Explaining the benefits of contact lenses to parents and children, finding the right lenses and maintenance routine, and having your staff patiently train young people, can result in a new bustling sector of your practice–and one that will improve the vision and comfort of young people.
Click here to download the American Optometric Association’s study,Children & Contact Lenses: Attitudes & Practices in Fitting Children in Contacts.
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Jason R. Miller, OD,has been in practice 11 yearsand is in a partnership private practice with Tamara M. Kuhlmann, OD, MS, atEyeCare Professionals of Powell, Ohio. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.