How to offer great multifocal contact lens services

Contact lens optician and co-owner of Focalpoint Opticians in south-west London, Gurminder Pandya, shares her observations on giving great patient care when using multifocal contact lenses with OT 

Gurminder Pandya

Do you find that patients are often confused about what multifocal contact lenses are?

I think many people aren’t aware that multifocals even exist. They do not know that it’s something that is available on the market for them. If they are aware, they may have heard of multifocals from their peers or friends and they think that it’s a similar concept to varifocal spectacles.

A lot of people say, ‘Will they make me feel dizzy?’ or ‘My friend has tried them and they didn’t really work.’ Therefore, educating staff in the practice is important as I may not be the first point of contact for the patient after they have had a sight test, or if they have come in as a walk-in on the shop floor. Staff must be comfortable in starting a conversation about multifocal lenses and address any misconceptions that the patient may have.

It’s about understanding what the patient wants and needs then just giving them a positive outlook. It’s also about enforcing positive language.

How might a patient misunderstand what a multifocal contact lens is?

With varifocal lenses, you’ve got the progression in your lens – distance at the top, then the intermediate and the reading. Also, with spectacles, whether you’re a minus or a plus patient, you could have either minification or magnification, but in contact lenses that doesn’t exist.

With varifocals, you’ll have that soft focus in the periphery where the prescription is blended, which again doesn’t exist in contact lenses. What we would normally do in that situation is put lenses on the eye, allowing the patient to get an idea of what it could be like, and fine-tune the prescription afterwards so that they have a better understanding of what differences there are between the two.

"You can use multifocal contact lenses in normal day-to-day life easily. It’s about giving someone a new outlook on life and how they see themselves"

How do you explain what a multifocal contact lens is to a patient?

We keep it really simple. The most complicated word we’ll use is ‘multifocal.’ When we say, ‘Would you like to try multifocal contact lenses?’ and they ask, ‘What do you mean by that?’ I tell them that it’s a lens that is designed to help you see distance, intermediate and near, without the use of glasses.

The main follow-up questions will be in the test room when I ask them about their lifestyle. You have to be realistic. Depending on the patient's work environment we can cater the prescription for that scenario. Here at Focal Point we are very confident that multifocal lenses can suit all professions and all lifestyles.

As long as you understand the patient’s lifestyle, and you manage their expectations, you can usually achieve a really great outcome. 

How might a patient benefit from multifocal contact lenses?

It’s spectacles free and you can use a product like 1-Day Acuvue Moist Brand Multifocal Contact Lenses in normal day-to-day life easily.

It’s about giving someone a new outlook in life and how they see themselves. For example, I had a woman in her early 50s who has been wearing reading glasses for 10 years or so and she was really tired of putting them on and taking them off all the time. I put contact lenses on her eyes and she ‘saw herself’ for the first time in a decade. Through reading glasses you’re magnified, so you don’t truly see yourself.   

I had another woman who is a make-up artist. She finds it difficult to put make-up on clients because everything is magnified, but by wearing contact lenses she found it easier.

Sometimes spectacles can act as a barrier, so if you’re talking to people or you’re working in a profession where there’s a lot of eye contact, it can be easier without glasses. In the case of sports as well, there is the freedom to do many physical activities without your glasses slipping off, getting sweaty, or steaming up.

What are your three top tips for fitting multifocal contact lenses?

  1. Use positive language and work with the patient’s needs – the patient always comes first, so don’t tell them, “it’s not possible” 
  2. Use the fitting guide – sometimes you may think you know what you’re doing, but it’s very easy to forget and different lenses require different fitting processes
  3. Be confident in and learn about the products that you use.