Supporting contact lens trialists beyond the practice
As lifestyles evolve through pandemic restrictions, the way contact lenses are introduced is also changing. OT speaks to Johnson & Johnson Vision on engaging patients and improving conversion
25 April 2021
What does the market look like for the contact lens sector currently? How would you describe the recovery of the sector so far?Jakob Sveen, managing director Northern Europe and general manager UK and Ireland (JS): It’s no secret that continued lockdowns have impacted the optical retail category and contact lens sector, with 43% of people wearing contact lenses less than before the pandemic. However, as the High Street prepares to open again, we are seeing some encouraging signs from patients. A recent survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson Vision found 79% of contact lens wearers in the UK plan to return to their normal frequency of wearing contact lenses after COVID-19. While some patients reduced their frequency of wear over the past year, interestingly 15% of young people said they are actually wearing contact lenses more than they did before the pandemic.
In terms of making appointments with their optician, 40% surveyed said they had already done so since the beginning of the pandemic, and half said they have no concerns with returning.
We believe that continued engagement with current contact lens patients, and reaching out to those who might be open to contact lenses to come in and be fitted for a trial, will help with recovery. Of course, this needs to be done within the guidelines set out for the profession within the Amber Phase. Eye care professionals (ECPs) who have been able to adapt through these times are already paving the way.
How have consumer attitudes towards contact lenses changed in the past year?
We believe this is because all of us – like our patients – are coming out of the pandemic with a new perspective on what it means to make choices for ourselves. People are doing what makes them happy – not because they need a reason to, but because they want to. Any occasion can be the occasion for patients to wear contact lenses. If they don’t realise it yet, with our help, they can.
As consumer behaviours change, how could the industry’s approach to patient engagement evolve?
JS: The change in patients’ perspectives means the way we introduce and talk about contact lenses should change too. Instead of looking only for traditional prompts, such as sports or big occasions, to recommend contact lenses, we suggest considering how everyday occasions might encourage new trials, reduction of drop-outs and re-engagement with lapsed wearers.
How is the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge designed to support practices in engaging new contact lens wearers?
JS: We want to support ECPs with their contact lens patients to help reduce drop-outs and improve conversion. The Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is a new behaviour change programme that ECPs can share with patients to do just that. It is designed to enhance patients’ experience with contact lenses from their first fit through to successful, ongoing use.
Starting when patients sign up for a contact lens trial, the programme delivers a range of content and tips directly to their inbox across a three-week period.
Our account managers will be reaching out to practices from April to talk about the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge and how to get patients signed up. With the support of our how-to guide, we hope this will be a helpful resource for building relationships and talking about contact lenses in store, driving conversions from contact lens trials to completion, ultimately growing a loyal patient base.
How does the challenge support sustainable behaviour change and address any potential challenges for new wearers?
JS: The purpose of the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is to complement the in-store experience, helping contact lens patients by providing support after they leave the practice, and improving our collective chance of supporting a first-time trialist to become 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 help 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.
Supporting patients and practitioners
“As we return to a new and hopeful future beyond the pandemic, services from health care professionals – including eye care practitioners – will be in heavy demand. Supporting patients to lead the lives they want is paramount at any time and having the 21 Day Challenge to support opticians’ busy lives is perhaps needed more now than ever.”
View from practice
Giving patients a great start
Faye McDearmid, optometrist and professional affairs consultant for Johnson & Johnson Vision, on supporting contact lens ‘considerers’
We have completed more contact lens fits so far in 2021 than in any other year. I think that is because we are proactive about discussing contact lenses, but also patients have new challenges due to changes in their lifestyles and working environments due to COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, we might have been able to fit somebody straight away, but now if we don’t know in advance that they are interested in contact lenses, then it needs to be booked separately. Having said that, I think that can be a good thing, because it means we can introduce the idea and gain acceptance from the patient. One thing that we will definitely continue out of COVID-19 is sending hygiene, application and removal information ahead of time, because when they come in, they seem to be so much more at ease.
I’ve noticed there are a lot more ‘considerers’ now making the leap. I think this is because of the extra challenges of wearing glasses through COVID-19, such as wearing masks or the new working situations.
I think the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is great because patients can be a little bit overwhelmed when first trying contact lenses. It is a new skill to learn, and people can be anxious or embarrassed if they don’t learn it straightaway. This will help get them off to a good start. Giving them that good experience is vital to going on to enjoy being a contact lens wearer.
We make sure patients are confident before they leave their teach, but then doing it on their own the first time can be a bit daunting. Some might feel embarrassed if they need to ask for help, though we tell them it is okay. The challenge means anybody who needs support, but might be put off asking, can reach out for extra help. We have also become used to doing so much more virtually and people are coming to expect that.
Retention is key and if you are offering something like the challenge to your patients, it really shows you care. We put so much time and effort into fitting people and giving them a good experience, so we want to retain them and see them enjoy those benefits of wearing contact lenses.
I’m lucky to know so many people who, if there is something I need to ask, I can reach out to for support. But I feel for those practice owners who are working on their own or in small teams and might not have others to reach out to. I would really encourage them to engage with the professional support available from contact lens manufacturers. Making those connections is so helpful, and there is so much support available.
Keeping the momentum going
Melanie McDowall, contact lens optician and professional affairs consultant for Johnson & Johnson Vision, on supporting long-term successful contact lens wear from the start
I’m privileged to be in a practice where we have the capacity to see contact lens patients, though we are trying to speak with as many as we can over the telephone or through remote consultation where it is suitable. We are increasingly seeing more patients, and their confidence to come in has also grown.
I feel there is more demand for new fits of contact lenses. This increase has happened organically, with patients getting in touch with us. Particularly those who have been considering contact lenses for some time and have found their glasses have been bothering them, are deciding that now is the time to try.
Prior to their trial, we are sending patients links to contact lens teach videos so they have a visual understanding of what to expect and can practise their technique without the lens before they come in. It has been working phenomenally well and is something I would definitely continue going forwards. It helps reduce the amount of time that the patients are in the store and it gives them a starting point and a bit of confidence that they know what to do.
I think the digital support available through the Acuvue® 21 Day Challenge is amazing. I have a degree in science and management of exercise and health, so I know that the 21 day behaviour change psychology is really important to getting into a new habit. Certainly, I have experienced this first-hand when I have tried similar challenges, such as exercise apps, that provide a lot of online support.
For contact lens wearers, the challenge can help to support them through those early days, which can be very challenging because it is like learning a new behaviour. Getting regular reminders and constant support is really going to keep the momentum going, reduce any insecurities and hopefully turn them into long-term successful contact lens wearers. This is ultimately why they have come to us in the first place.
In a new teach, contact lens wearers are given a lot of information and we can’t expect them to remember everything. The challenge can help to support their learning and hopefully reduce any anxiety. To have a tool that can keep them in contact and support them further is really helpful for the patient, as well as the practitioner and practice.
It has been humbling to have seen a lot of keyworkers being fitted with contact lenses for the first time because of lifestyle changes with personal protective equipment (PPE). It makes you curious about the future and how long we will be wearing PPE. Similarly, it makes me wonder how many more patients are going to come in to receive contact lenses to help with their everyday activities, such as shopping, walking or exercising.
The patient perspective
Patient profile: Julia Hipkiss, 37, contact lens wearer for 20 years
“I’ve been wearing contact lenses for about 20 years, so I would probably never stop. It’s nice not to have something on my face all of the time and I don’t feel quite as dressed up without contact lenses.
“At the end of 2019 I had a baby and, as he got bigger, he was always wanting to take my glasses off. So even if I was just around the house, I would always put my contact lenses in because it was much easier.
“Being in our houses more due to COVID-19, there has seemed to be less of a reason to dress up. Early in the pandemic, as my son went to nursery and I went back to work, I felt that I might as well just wear my glasses. As I’ve become more used to working from home though, I’ve found that sometimes you want to make an effort with your appearance, and so I wear my contact lenses a lot, even if it is just me in the house.
“I also like to wear a headset when I’m on calls and having the arms of my glasses behind my ears is not always very comfortable. I’m on the phone so much more now, so contact lenses are convenient.”
“My tip for new contact lens wearers would be to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to put them on. It can be a bit unnerving when you first start, but if you are in a rush it can feel more stressful.”