By Shane R. Kannarr, OD
Oct. 26, 2022
Presbyopia impacts everyone eventually. Fortunately, it’s a condition with many solutions, including progressive glasses, multifocal contact lenses, eye drops that temporarily provide vision correction, refractive surgery and premium IOLs. Here is how I am building services for presbyopic patients in my practice, and educating our patients that these options for treating presbyopia are available to them.
How Big is the Opportunity to Serve Presbyopic Patients?
We have 6,000-7,000 presbyopic patients in our four-OD practice. I estimate that around 1,000 of those patients are at the point where presbyopia is starting to negatively impact their life. The vast majority require some type of vision correction.
Impact of Presyopia Starts Earlier Than We Thought
Historically, we brought up the need for presbyopia vision correction only after the patient had complaints of blurred vision at near, and when their refraction supported a need for an add at near.
In the last few years, however, we have realized that early presbyopia impacts patients with headaches, squinting and eye fatigue. Many of these patients will not test for an add in our office because the complaints only come after sustained near tasks, such as working for more than 2-3 hours on a computer. So, now we base our diagnosis of presbyopia on questions related to eye strain, as well as on the classic symptom of having difficulty seeing things up close.
New Presbyopia Treatment Options Means New Patients
Presbyopia eye drops have added an entirely new dimension to our practice. First of all, it provides an alternative for many of our patients who are not ready for contacts or glasses. The pharmaceutical option also lets us bridge the gap for many patients during specific activities. We also are seeing an influx of patients who have heard about the eye drop from a variety of channels, including television, social media, print, or word-of-mouth, and have scheduled appointments to see if they are candidates. These information-seekers have created a big influx of patients to our office.
Once in our office, we are able to also screen these patients for sight-threatening conditions like glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinal tears and detachments and diabetic retinopathy. It is well known that risk of disease, both ocular and systemic, increases as we move through life. Millions of presbyopic patients are purchasing over-the-counter readers, and have not had a comprehensive eye exam in years, if ever. An eye exam is an inexpensive and simple way to find many ophthalmic as well as systemic diseases, such as autoimmune disease-associated hypertension.
With patients coming to our office at an earlier age in search of presbyopia solutions like the new eye drops, we can screen to identify and treat many of these diseases early. This often provides better outcomes for the patient while generating additional profitability for our practice.
Presbyopia Solutions for More Patients
With the inevitability of presbyopia comes the inevitability of added costs for treatment solutions ranging from progressive eyewear to multifocal contact lenses, presbyopia eye drops and surgical interventions.
It’s too easy for patients to dismiss the treatment options you present by quickly letting you know that they are only interested in what their insurance covers. In the case of presbyopia, that means saying no to visual solutions that can not only correct their near vision, but prevent uncomfortable symptoms like headaches from eye strain.
We also don’t want patients to say “no” to visual solutions that can enable them to be more productive at work and have more fun at play.
The good news is there is a simple way to make presbyopia treatment solutions, and other care in your office, accessible to more patients. Offering the CareCredit credit card allows those patients approved to use this credit card the opportunity to space out payments, rather than having to pay all at one time. That additional flexibility in payment can be what allows a patient to say yes.
When patients are able to get the treatments both you and they feel will help them function better in their everyday lives, they will remember the service you provided and are sure to return for care and refer many others. —ROB Editors.
Create Individualized Treatment Plans that Optimize a Combination of Solutions
We try to get to know our patients during their office visit or through their history with our practice, if they have seen us before. Once we know which presbyopia treatment options the patient is a candidate for, we discuss them with the patient, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each. We try to relate the presbyopia solutions we recommend to what the patient has told us about their daily activities.
We explain that more than one solution will probably be needed to fix the problem. Then, we ask which of the solutions we presented seems the best for them. By explaining all the options, we give patients an opportunity to commit to the solutions they pick and take ownership of their treatment plan.
This conversation about treatment options also plants seeds for future options. For example, discussing with patients how presbyopia drops are beneficial may make the patient think about trying the drops when they are golfing and struggling with glasses.
Deliver Consistent Message about Presbyopia
We try to have consistent messaging about the presbyopia solutions we offer from the front desk, technicians, doctors and optical. By cross-training our staff, we hope that each staff member can discuss the high-level benefits of each presbyopia treatment option we present.
For example, let’s say a patient gets reading glasses, but comes back in and complains they can’t watch TV. The front desk staff will discuss the option of glasses with progressive lenses. Or, maybe a glasses-wearer comes in complaining about trouble with their glasses sliding off their nose. The opticians will discuss contacts or pharmaceutical options like the presbyopia drops.
At the same time, when a patient picks one of the options we discussed, the entire staff will try to reinforce the benefits of that option. Good staff training, consistent messaging and a positive attitude from the staff go a long way in creating confidence in the presbyopia treatment options the patient has selected.
Increase Accessibility of Presbyopia Treatment Solutions
Progressive eyewear and multifocal contact lenses are more expensive than their single-vision counterparts. Presbyopia eye drops are not as expensive, but are not covered at all by insurance plans. And this all rests against the backdrop of rising inflation and more conservative consumer spending.
Regardless of out-of-pocket costs, we always present what we consider to be the best option for the patient’s individual needs first and listen to what they find most appealing – as our main goal is to truly better their lifestyle and build a long-lasting relationship. But we also understand that patients all have different financial situations and train our staff to expect questions related to cost.
To address these concerns, we offer financing options via the CareCredit credit card which can help patients space out payments over time, rather than having to pay us all upfront. We have found that many patients value this convenience and then decide to move forward with the preferred treatment.
We want our patients to have access to the treatments that will enable them to get the most out of life. Presbyopia-correcting solutions are among those treatments that make a huge difference to our patients. It makes a significant difference when you can do the work and hobbies to the best of your abilities that make life worth living.
Shane Kannarr, OD, is the owner of Kannarr Eye Care, a Vision Source practice in Pittsburg and Girard, Kans. To contact him: email@example.com