Re-engaging the contact lens curious
With patient interactions evolving post-COVID-19, OT speaks to experts and optometrists at Johnson & Johnson Vision on how practices can invite patients to experience contact lenses
26 December 2020
What is your view of how well the contact lens sector is performing and the challenges facing contact lens care in the next six months?James Haden, marketing director for Johnson & Johnson Vision UK (JH): Lockdown, closed stores and restrictions on patients’ mobility has significantly impacted the optical retail category. Specific to the contact lens sector, we see two key challenges and opportunities. The first is retaining current contact lens wearers to prevent drop out, and second, to carefully re-engage patients who might be open to contact lenses to come in and be fitted for a trial. Of course, how we do this needs to reflect our current reality, so there is a huge opportunity for us as an industry to evolve our approach to patient engagement.
What steps has J&J Vision taken this autumn to support ECPs?JH: We have been working closely with ECPs to help them in whatever way we can, whether it is better understanding patient needs, or how to blend virtual and physical appointments. We are critically challenging our own approach as to how we can best engage, retain and nurture contact lens wearers as we know the reality is that the marketplace will never be the same again.
Could you tell OT about the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge and the inspiration behind it?JH: We are very excited to be introducing a new programme for contact lens patients in the New Year. The Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is a new behaviour change programme designed to enhance the patient experience with contact lenses from first fit to successful, ongoing use.
Starting when patients sign up for a contact lens trial, the programme delivers a range of content directly to their inbox across a three-week period. The purpose is to augment the in-store experience, helping contact lens patients by providing support after they leave the practice, and improving our collective chance of converting a first-time trialist to a confident and loyal contact lens wearer.
Part of the inspiration behind the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is that we know it takes time to form a new habit. There are plenty of proven case studies, from exercise, to smoking cessation, which demonstrate that providing useful, timely content and positive nudges can make a big difference when people want to make a change. So we are focusing on those first few critical weeks for contact lens trialists.
How does the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge help ECPs to engage with patients?JH: Throughout the three weeks, we want to partner with stores to build a strong and effective support programme for all contact lens trialists, always ensuring the practitioner is at the heart of the relationship. The Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is an additional resource to provide to patients, so they feel they have a little extra support outside of the practice. From the moment a patient leaves a practice excited to start their contact lens trial, they will start receiving content that can help guide them from the comfort of their own home, should they need that extra support.
How would J&J like to see practices use the challenge?JH: We aim to partner with ECPs to provide the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge as an additional resource for patients. The programme will include a range of resources, including a take-home kit as well as practical tips and information delivered throughout the 21 days – all with the aim of helping patients to overcome any fears and develop confidence in their lenses.
How does the challenge fit within J&J’s wider efforts to support ECPs?JH: Our first priority is to support our customers and their practices. Through lockdown we quickly moved to provide resources to support ECPs as both practitioners and business owners, and we are continuing to focus on that. The Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is a resource to help ECPs engage patients and protect their business, as we know contact lens wearers are reliable and high value customers. Patients who wear both glasses and contact lenses have a higher frequency of purchase and can create sustained business revenue through direct debit options.
We have also created a new consumer facing campaign – Go see life through a different lens – to re-engage the four million contact lens considerers in the UK, and to remind current contact lens wearers why they love their lenses. The campaign aims to reflect the aspiration of wearing Acuvue contact lenses with the reality of life in lockdown, as there remain a multitude of ways contact lenses can enhance everyday life.
How can practices get involved with the campaign?JH: All practices are welcome and encouraged to sign up for the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge. From February, ECPs can reach out to their Acuvue® Account Manager and will be provided with a suite of marketing materials for the programme. When a patient is fitted with new Acuvue® contact lenses, they can sign up for the challenge on our website.
Strengthening the patient relationship
KC: It has been impressive to see how quickly ECPs adapted to continue supporting their patients through lockdown. A lot of practitioners offered consultations over the phone for contact lens wearers and set them up with direct debit schemes so they could continue receiving their contact lenses. This not only helped from a patient care perspective, but also helped strengthen relationships. One practitioner I know was even offering Zoom calls with her patients to help provide guidance on application and removal of contact lenses.
Practices that are able to re-engage both with current contact lens wearers and recent dropouts have an opportunity to strengthen their patient database and drive business recovery. We want to help ECPs create a sustainable and efficient practice which optimises quality time with patients – which ultimately is what really matters.
View from practice
The past few months have been a challenging time, but it's also brought about an opportunity to review how we do things in practice. It has highlighted the importance of a patient-centred approach to provide the best clinical care, which has given me a greater level of satisfaction. I realised how adaptable and resilient we are as a profession and this makes me optimistic about our future.
I think early on many patients were concerned about the safety of contact lens wear during the pandemic, though we were able to reassure our patients that there is no scientific evidence to suggest an increased risk. It has been a great time to reinforce compliance amongst existing wearers in regard to following the recommended contact lens care and replacement schedule.
One of the most common questions I'm asked by patients regarding contact lenses is if they are comfortable. I advise my patients that contact lenses are both visually and physically comfortable and suggest they book in for a consultation, so they personally experience the benefits.
The early stages of contact lens wear are crucial to long-term success, satisfaction and compliance. The Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge will help provide contact lens trialists with more support beyond the consulting room, from tips on application and removal, to safe contact lens care. The content will also prompt frequency of wear, as there are so many activities where contact lenses can offer patients flexibility and freedom.
Forming a new habit takes time, and occasionally, patients can lose motivation. But by getting new contact lens wearers to sign up to the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge, we will be helping them with a reinforced commitment to build good habits, routines, and confidence. I think it is a great opportunity and is going to be really useful for patients.
One positive outcome from the past couple of months has been the possibility of remote consultations. It has been valuable in being able to identify if the patient's needs and care can be managed remotely, to help maintain social distancing for the patient and the practice team and you can still bring the patient in for a face-to-face appointment if needed. I wonder if that will influence how we continue to practice beyond this period.
There has been a lot of change. I am a locum, so during lockdown I haven't been working in practice and I have found that I’ve missed my patients. But I have found it really rewarding to be able to support fellow clinicians, through my role for Johnson & Johnson, in navigating the new challenges.
We are identifying new ways patients could benefit from wearing contact lenses as lifestyles have changed. While there has been a decline for some people in frequency of contact lens wear, others are wearing them more often for exercise or video calls. I think that is probably where we can change our game in how we introduce contact lenses, asking about changes in their lifestyle and if they would like to try a new or different lens. Patients having tired eyes from an increase in screen-time may benefit from trying a different lens - one that is more able to retain moisture, for example.
A lot of patients are nervous when they are first trying contact lenses. I think that the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge will be a way you can hold your patient’s hand through the process and those tentative first weeks. I see so many patients in practice who have put off trying contact lenses for years. What they get with the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is like an additional safety net. I think that where there will be patients who are in two minds about contact lenses, it will give them the extra push they need to give it a try.
If somebody is having a contact lens teach, I'm very mindful about checking the patient is confident before they leave, especially as a locum, if you are not back in that practice to see that patient for their follow up. I think that with the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge, I would have the reassurance that the patient was getting a certain level of support.
The challenges of COVID-19 have made us fast forward the way that we work as an industry. I think it has also highlighted the level of clinical care we provide, with the personal protective equipment that practitioners are wearing, I think it highlights to patients that it is a health environment. I think that is a positive thing.
The patient perspective
Patient profile: Matt Gurr, 28, contact lens wearer for 13 years“When you first start wearing contact lenses, the idea of putting something on your eye is a little strange. I remember my first fitting and learning those techniques that are now second nature. I had some issues with dryness, which made it a bit uncomfortable, so I tried a few different brands which was helpful. I think it just takes a bit of persistence and practice.
“In the initial lockdown, while I was at home more and not seeing people as often, I found myself staying in my glasses slightly more. Over the summer when I could meet friends, I found my contact lens wear was mostly back to its normal level.
“Wearing contact lenses suits my lifestyle. I wear them while cycling and running, and I would typically wear them to work or when seeing friends.
“To anyone trying contact lenses, I would say to make the most of the session with the optometrist and ask for guidance. I found that really helpful, especially in the initial stage when it feels weird to be putting something on your eye. Even though it feels a little strange, stick with it. Once you get past that hurdle, it becomes the easiest thing in the world. Remember that if it doesn’t feel completely comfortable, then it isn’t necessarily just contact lenses in general, it might be the type you are wearing. Ask your optometrist about the different contact lenses you can try.”
Patient profile: Beverley Harlow, 64, contact lens wearer for 45 years“When I started wearing contact lenses, it was just so nice not to have glasses on all the time and I preferred how they looked. I think my vision is better with contact lenses, particularly as I have astigmatism, so once contact lenses were developed that could take account of that, it was much better.
“My routine of wearing contact lenses hasn’t really changed over this year. I think I wear them at least 95% of the time and they are just part of my everyday. I put my contact lenses on before I clean my teeth in the morning, and I take them out before I clean my teeth at night. The only difference during lockdown was that I couldn’t have my check-up at the opticians, but I have not had any issues and have been booked in since.
“I would recommend new contact lens wearers persevere. You will get used to it and find a routine that suits you. If you don’t feel the vision is correct, or if you don’t feel comfortable, you can always go back to your optometrist for help because there are things they can do.”