August 4, 2021
New consumer research commissioned by the Contact Lens Institute for its See Tomorrow initiative has revealed substantial post-pandemic clinical care and business growth opportunities for the eyecare community. The work—conducted through two studies during late June and early July—explores evolving beliefs and expectations of U.S. adults regarding their health and healthcare providers, spending habits, trusted information sources, recreational plans and optimism as the world looks ahead to better times.
“There’s no doubt that the patient walking into your office today is not the same person as before the pandemic. That opens doors to having new conversations, adjusting care to match shifting lifestyles, and making recommendations aligned with where people see themselves heading,” said Contact Lens Institute Executive Director Stan Rogaski. “That’s why we have launched the See Tomorrow initiative, encouraging the eyecare community and consumers alike to think about how vision and contact lenses play sizable roles in fulfilling their hopes for the future.”
Perspectives on Personal Health and Trusted Sources
More than one-half of 1,000+ adults surveyed in the U.S. reported changes to their physical (53 percent) and mental (52 percent) health compared to before the pandemic—and about one in six people reported significant alterations (both better and worse). Accordingly, 41 percent are thinking more about their overall health than in the past (25 percent specific to vision). Far from wanting to keep those thoughts to themselves, nearly one in two people want their healthcare professional to ask about and discuss recent changes to their lives.
With 31 percent of people trusting their healthcare professional even more than they did early last year, there’s no better time to engage in that dialogue. An almost equivalent percentage (32 percent) say they are turning to online sources for health information more than before—a reason for eyecare practices to expand their digital communications pathways.
Vision’s Leading Role in Pursuing Dreams
Presented with several options about what people wanted to do more of as restrictions are lifted, approximately one in two said they want to dine out (52 percent), gather with friends (48 percent) and travel (45 percent). One in three are craving more live entertainment (34 percent) and shopping (33 percent), and about a quarter of U.S. adults are eager to take on more physical activities such as personal fitness or sports.
What holds a key to their plans? An overwhelming 89 percent of respondents indicated their eyesight and eye health were important to the pursuit of a promising future (tying mobility as the highest ranked health factor).
And while money always factors into turning plans into reality—roughly half of all people said a lack of funds could be an obstacle to pursuing their dreams—consumers also strongly affirmed that they would spend on what matters to them. Compared to before the pandemic, 35 percent are willing to spend more on things that improve their future (rising to 73 percent for similar or increased spending). Thirty-eight percent are willing to spend more on things that improve their health (76 percent similar or increased). And 32 percent are willing to spend more on things that make them feel good about themselves (71 percent similar or increased).
An Opportunity for Contact Lens Prescribing
“Our data show that over half of America is optimistic about the next six to 18 months, that people value their health and their doctors’ advice, and that nearly nine in 10 people believe vision is central to living their best lives,” said Rick Weisbarth, OD, FAAO, who chairs the Contact Lens Institute’s communications committee. “Combine that with increased willingness to purchase items that improve their futures, and there’s no better time to discuss advances in contact lenses and options that fit their lifestyles.”
Yet among respondents who need vision correction currently, only 36 percent indicated their eye doctor had discussed contact lenses with them in the past. It stands to reason that 57 percent of people requiring vision correction say they knew little about contact lenses or had no opinion.
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That does not indicate a lack of interest. Thirty percent of prescription glasses wearers want their eyecare professional to discuss new types of contact lenses that may be right for them. That rises to 77 percent among contact lens wearers. And once people begin wearing contact lenses, they realize the impact—more than seven in 10 agree that their lenses may help them pursue their desired lifestyle.
“Exploring the benefits of contact lenses—vision and lifestyle-related alike—should be met with open arms by patients, given all we’re seeing from this new data. Whether more broadly recommending premium lenses, introducing recent advances to lapsed wearers, or suggesting that habitual glasses wearers try occasional contact lens wear as they return to group social activities, the eyecare community can act today to help our patients see tomorrow,” said Dr. Weisbarth.