How do I… engage effectively with new contact lens patients when I will not see them through their contact lens fitting journey?
Optometrist and Johnson & Johnson Vision professional affairs consultant, Marie-Therese Hall, shares advice for locums on engaging with new contact lens wearers
20 May 2023
I have been working as a locum optometrist for a few years now, and although I very much enjoy the variety and flexibility that comes with the role, one of the things I miss most about being a resident optometrist is the likelihood of seeing the same patient twice.
As an optometrist who has always been passionate about the benefits of contact lens wear, I became aware as a locum that I would no longer have ‘regular contact lens patients.’ I feel that one of the important measures of successful contact lens fitting is patient feedback, and whether or not the patient becomes a successful contact lens wearer. All of this is influenced by how the patient felt throughout the contact lens fitting journey, and how well the contact lens material and design selected suited the patient’s individual needs. Aware that I would no longer have this feedback, I spoke to a few locum colleagues for their views and started to reflect on the different skills and behaviours that I would need as a locum optometrist in order to deliver personalised, consistent patient care.
Patient journey stages
There are several stages in a patient’s journey to successful contact lens wear, and so, as a locum optometrist, I am conscious that I may only play a small part in a particular patient’s journey. I want the patient to feel that the interaction we have is a meaningful step in their journey, and that they feel informed and at ease.
To aid this, it helps if I am informed too. As part of my preparation for the day, I like to understand what a typical contact lens journey looks like in the practice I am working in. For example, to find out which contact lenses the practice has in stock, and which may need to be ordered in. Being familiar and keeping up to date with the contact lens materials used across different practices is key. Keeping your own copies of contact lens product information, or bookmarking relevant information on manufacturers’ websites, along with multifocal contact lens fitting guides means that you will always have the information to hand.
I want the patient to feel that the interaction we have is a meaningful step of their journey, and that they feel informed and at ease
To help me plan my appointment time, it is useful to understand whether I am expected to do the contact lens application and removal training, or if this will be delegated to a member of the support team. If delegated, it can help to consider the experience or confidence level of the support colleague, and whether as the clinician responsible, I will need to check in with the patient before they take the initial contact lens trial home. Other things include being prepared to answer questions on details such as payment. This can mean finding out any information on price structure, or if the practice has a contact lens payment plan.
The patient’s contact lens journey does not end when they walk out with their first supply of lenses, so helping the patient know that the support will continue is important. I like to familiarise myself with any patient information that the practice provides for new contact lens wearers, whether this is via a leaflet or an email. As well as being able to let the patient know how they can get in touch if they have any questions or concerns during the trial period and beyond, I find it useful to keep a note of this information so that it can be referred to if visiting the same practice or group of practices at a later date.
I am always keen to make a good first impression, particularly as it is likely to be the first and only time I meet a patient, as this helps with how the patient will perceive the rest of their contact lens journey. Referring to, or clarifying previously recorded information about lifestyle, visual needs, and expectations from contact lens wear can help the journey to feel personalised for the patient. Regardless of whichever part of the journey I’m involved in, I want the patient to feel that their needs were understood, and that they feel comfortable to ask any questions or to voice any specific concerns they have about their contact lens wear.
The patient’s contact lens journey does not end when they walk out with their first supply of lenses, so helping the patient know that the support will continue is important
If the patient is to return for further follow up, keeping clear and concise records explaining clinical findings and fitting choice, along with any advice or information given to the patient can all be helpful for the next practitioner to feel informed, and avoid the patient having to repeat themselves.
I feel that success in contact lens fitting involves helping the patient to feel informed and at ease and ensuring that the contact lens recommended is best suited to the patient’s individual needs. As a locum optometrist, this extends to making sure that your one interaction counts, and is a seamless part of the patient’s successful contact lens fitting story.
What are your top three tips for helping locums keep up to date with developments in contact lens products?
- Look for opportunities to attend contact lens related CPD. This will enable you to share experiences and discuss current contact lens practice with your peers
- Keep in touch with your local contact lens manufacturer representative or visit contact lens manufacturer websites for information and resources on new and existing contact lens products, and where possible, sign up for email updates so that you can ensure you will hear the latest news about products
- Look out for information in optical publications. Contact lens manufacturers will often share information on the release of new products in magazines such as Optometry Today.