Dealing with drop outs in contact lens wear

A report commissioned by CooperVision explores the motivations of contact lens wearers and why they continue to drop out

Lynne Fernandes

‘It’s just not working for me’ – while there are a variety of reasons why patients may reach this conclusion after encountering problems wearing contact lenses, a new report from CooperVision suggests that the majority of reasons for patients ‘giving up’ could have been avoided.

Produced in partnership with market research company GfK, the Contact Lens Category Retention White Paper surveyed 1000 people on their experiences of being prescribed contact lenses that were supplied by a range of contact lens manufacturers.

CooperVision’s customer marketing manager, Fiona Phelan, explained to OT that the motivation behind the paper was to better understand patient retention, adding: “It is still a huge issue within the contact lens category. CooperVision felt that we needed to gain insight into what it is that makes patients drop out of contact lens wear.”

Ms Phelan added: “Our objective was to develop tools and services that we can bring to practice to help practitioners to address these issues.”

In the survey, half of the respondents (51%) were contact lens wearers who had started wearing their contact lenses within the last 12 months, and the other half (49%) had given up wearing their contact lenses in the last three years.

The report revealed that practitioners should consider how patient care is delivered, highlighting that the better the service from the eye care practitioner, the more likely the patient is to succeed with contact lenses – especially when it comes to application and removal. This report offered advice on the length of time of the first consultation, and giving patients a choice of contact lenses to try, as well as offering a subscription scheme to suit the patient.

Effective handing

Giving a reaction to the report, Bristol- based independent optometrist, Lynne Fernandes, told OT that one key finding that resonated with her was that alongside discomfort, dryness and red eyes, a primary cause of contact lens dropout is handling issues for patients.

“That really surprised me. I thought that when we taught patients how to pop contact lenses on or off their eyes, they went away happy, and it astounded me to hear that people drop out because they just don’t get used to handling their contact lenses and are worried about it.”

Ms Fernandes added: “That’s made me think about the way we practice, and what we are going to implement so we ensure that our contact lens patients do not drop out. It is important to remember to ask: ‘Would you like to pop back for another teaching session?’”

This surprise was mirrored by Nottingham-based optometrist Neil Retallic, who told OT: “In theory, if you get your approach right with application and removal of contact lenses, and if you give enough support and resources, you would think that handling would not be as big an issue as it is.”

Another key finding in the report revealed that 42% of ‘dropouts’ described their experience of wearing contact lenses as “uncomfortable,” adding that patients aren’t always offered the extra support or alternative options that might enable them to stay in contact lenses.

Ms Fernandes told OT that, while she understood the reasons why patients might stop wearing contact lenses, “the sadness for me is that they do not realise that there are alternatives.”

Mr Retallic explained to OT that tackling dropout comes back to the customer journey.

“You do notice it when practitioners don’t think through what the full customer journey should look like and they don’t take the time they should.

“They then make assumptions that patients will be able to go away and handle their lenses...but it is very different applying and removing contact lenses comfortably in a shop environment and then doing it on your own at home and trying to remember the best technique to use.

“It is about educating people about the amount of time that they might need to learn this new skill – if patients underestimate what contact lenses entail they might get frustrated when they cannot handle them easily.”

Putting the learning into practice

Asked what part of her practice routine she would consider changing based on the findings of the report, Ms Fernandes told OT: “We need to go through the patient’s lifestyle, what they need from their contact lenses, how much they are planning to wear their contact lenses for, and choose a contact lens that is tailored to their budget,” she said.

Ms Fernandes added that: “We also must make sure that if something has changed – their tear film or their lifestyle for example – in the last six months, we can find a suitable, viable alternative.”

She revealed that she is planning to use a website called Contact Lens Coach, produced by CooperVision, to teach patients to take contact lenses on and off their eyes.

“We will show them the video, then teach them how to do it in the practice, and then send them away with the video. This means that they have lots of teaching available to them,” she said.

Mr Retallic placed importance on practitioners not making an assumption about patients’ level of confidence and competence.

“As a practitioner, you might know how to fit a lens, you might have a patient that is motivated to wear a lens, and perfect product for them – but if you don’t have your customer journey process in place, even the most motivated person can disengage...

You have to be thinking about what happens once the patient leaves the testing room,” he concluded.

The white paper can be found here.