By Dave Anderson, OD
June 7, 2017
Multifocal contact lenses provide an opportunity to help your patients improve their vision and quality of life. They also provide a way to build your practice and increase profitability. Higher professional fees, multiple eyewear purchases and more frequent visits mean greater practice revenues.
And with the oldest Millennials moving into their late thirties, that opportunity is only going to grow over the next decade as they experience presbyopia and value an eyewear option that does not show it.
My four-OD, 18-support staff practice sees approximately 2,500 contact lens patients annually. Of these, over 600 are in multifocal contacts, and another 200 would likely benefit from a multifocal contact lens.
This high level of multifocal wearers was achieved through a consistent focus on every patient who comes into our practice. We discuss all vision options, regardless of their stated desire. We go into every patient encounter as a chance to educate. We use each opportunity to look at a patient’s needs in their daily lives, and focus on solutions to those needs, including the part-time needs that contacts may be best solution for.
In our office, multifocal fittings account for over $30,000 a year, and product revenue accounts for over $100,000 annually. Over the last five years, that number has grown at a steady rate, not as fast as single-use contact lenses, but this category is one of the fastest growth segments in our contact lens practice.
Educating Patients About Multifocal CLs Worth It
There are many clear reasons to offer and educate patients on multifocal options. One of the most important reasons is that you want to be the expert in their eyes. It is better for a patient to hear about new options and new technology from their doctor than it is for them to learn from other non-professional sources, such as the internet or friends.
There is also an increased profitability for these patients. Patients who wear multifocal contacts have better rates of follow-up, returning to the office for annual care closer to the year mark. This is in part because their eyes are changing more rapidly, but also because they are patients that are in an age group of dryer eyes and other eye issues that need monitored more closely.
Efficiently & Effectively Manage Multifocal Patients
More chair time is required for multifocal patients. Much of the chair time is in the explanation of what is happening to the patient’s eyes and how the lenses will work to help them, but some of that added time is also due to the fine-tuning of the patient’s vision needs based on each lens. One big thing that helps limit chair time is proper patient selection.
It is vital to manage expectations. Multifocal lenses can provide great vision for most patients, but not all patients. A patient who is very critical, for whom a small axis change in their glasses is a miserable experience, may not tolerate the simultaneous vision that multifocal lenses give patients. Further, a person with extremely dry eyes may be a difficult fit.
A few other things that can limit chair time include following the fitting guidelines for each lens, fully understanding the visual demand of your patients, and knowing when the lenses are not going to meet a patient’s expectations.
Most patients who have challenges with their near vision could benefit from a multifocal contact lens. Even someone with no distance need eventually has difficulty seeing up close. They are using reading glasses, or bifocal glasses, and have experienced a life changing event–they no longer see well up close. Offering patients a contact lens option gives them a tool that allows them to continue to be active and still see what they need to. I even think many patients love the idea of part-time wear, giving themselves a break from their glasses, allowing them to wear sunglasses, and ultimately, to feel young again.
I start the multifocal conversation early, before the patient is struggling with up-close vision. I let them know that even when their eyes start changing up close, they can continue to wear contacts, and I discuss some of the available options. I discuss the visual options for their eyes with contacts, and discuss the advantages of multifocal contacts.
Address Patient Concerns
The biggest concerns include the ability to put lenses in, the cost of them and if they will make their eyes worse. I always discuss with patients that the cost will no doubt be greater, but like cruise control on their vehicle, the convenience it will give them will soon become a necessity. Our office always allows patients to experiment with contacts by trying them in the office, and they are only charged for a fitting if the doctor needs to evaluate the fit and vision with contacts, and the patient fully intends to proceed with wearing the lens out of the office.
Train Staff on Multifocal CLs
All of our staff are trained on how contact lenses work, and why they may work for some, but not others. As part of our pre-testing for every exam, we ask if the patient would like to know more about contact lenses, and how it might help them see better. Our contact lens technicians also discuss further how the lenses work for any patient who is a current wearer, and who may be on the verge of needing a multifocal lens. They go over the difference in cost, and in many cases, the patient is pleasantly surprised the the cost is not significantly different than what they currently pay.
Don’t Inventory Multifocal CLs
With the significant amount of various powers, we do not keep an inventory of multifocal contact lenses in our office, but with direct ship to patients, once they decide the contacts are performing to their needs, the patient has their supply in their hands within just a few days directly from our distributor.
We have a large contact lens area, but the biggest thing is to focus on one or two specific multifocal lens brands, and know the brands well. Have these brands in your office ready to be fit that day. Any other lens could be ordered if needed after the fitting process has begun.
Encourage Annual Sales
We always focus on the purchase of an annual supply first by discussing the health benefits and the harmful habits that can occur when a contact lens supply dwindles. We stress the health risks, and focus on the patient having the number of lenses needed until their next exam. We also discuss the rebates that are available to the patient, and the benefits of direct shipping of their lenses. Finally, we discuss the other benefit to our patients of an annual supply: The 20 percent off glasses and $50 off non-prescription sunglasses, which our practice offers all patients who purchase an annual supply of contact lenses.
Make Patients Feel Secure in their Purchase
We always stand behind the purchase that a patient makes. Specifically, we tell them that we and the manufacturer want them to be a happy patient who continues to love the product. We give them a generous three months to return the product if they are not happy. This motivates the doctor to have a good final prescription before a purchase occurs, and only rarely does a patient need to take advantage of this program.