Communication, education and an informed practice team are crucial when it comes to fitting patients with contact lenses and retaining them as wearers.
These were the three points raised by a panel of practitioners at contact lens manufacturer Alcon’s Alconversation event in December.
Experts sitting on the panel included contact lens optician and clinical lead at the Association of British Dispensing Optician (ABDO), Max Halford; optometrist and clinical and regulatory adviser at the AOP, Roshni Kanabar; and head of the school of optometry at the University of Bradford and president of the College of Optometrists, Professor Edward Mallen.
During the event, the panel discussed four questions, one of which was posed by OT.
OT asked: “With regards to new contact lens wearers and managing their expectations to reduce dropout, what advice can you share on how practitioners can best meet and exceed the expectations of patients, before, during and after the initial fitting?”
A listening lesson
Responding to the question, contact lens optician Mr Halford warned practitioners “never over promise and under deliver because you are starting off on the wrong foot.”
He explained that a new fit appointment is key and that this appointment should be geared heavily towards communication and listening. He admitted that in the past he has been guilty of “going off on a tangent” when he thinks he knows what the patient wants, but added that this appointment should be designed for the practitioner to “sit back, listen and try to narrow down the options and have a conversation about the process.”
Ms Kanabar agreed, revealing she spends the majority of her first appointment with a contact lens patient talking to them, asking questions about why they have presented at the practice, why they want contact lenses and what they want them for. She ends the conversation by explaining the process that will follow, enabling her to provide personalised care for each patient.
A contact lens wearer himself from a young age, Professor Mallen highlighted that contact lenses can be “life changing” and as a result practitioners need to understand what they can do for patients, for which communication is key.
Mr Halford said that in his experience, the difference between practices that get it right and practices that get it wrong when it comes to contact lens retention is understanding that “it is a three-way process between the patient, the practitioner and the team within the practice.”
Chairing the session, optometrist and consultant at the Optical Consumer Complaints Service, Richard Edwards, shared a piece of advice that he has been given previously. “We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion,” he emphasised.
Taking comments from the audience, previous chief executive of the British Contact Lens Association, Cheryl Donnelly, highlighted that research has shown that dropouts occur within the first two weeks of wear and asked what the panel would suggest practices do to prevent this.
Professor Mallen said that investment in “a little bit more time” and “a little bit more communication” from the whole practice team was key, adding that telephoning the patient could prove effective.
However, for optometrist and practice owner, Brian Tompkins, waiting two weeks is too long. “I think two weeks is too late. I think you have blown it by then as you already have a disheartened, unhappy patient,” he said, speaking from the audience.
Mr Tompkins highlighted that getting it right for the patient to avoid drop outs starts before the practitioner has selected a lens for the patient. “I am absolutely adamant in telling the patient that unless we get it right before we put this marvellous piece of technology in and apply it to you, then they can go wrong,” he said.