How do I… speak to patients about upgrading their contact lenses?
Locum optometrist and Johnson & Johnson Vision professional affairs consultant, Marie-Therese Hall, shares advice on speaking to patients about upgrading
20 November 2023
We have all benefited from technology advancements over the years, and with increased usage and access to technology in everyday life, our patients are no different.
As technology continues to evolve, our positive experiences, alongside readily available information around the features and benefits of newer devices, typically motivates us to regularly update or upgrade our devices, choosing the make or model we feel best suits our needs.
When it comes to contact lenses, patients attending our practices are less likely to know the differences in the features of different contact lenses available, so they rely on us, their eye care professional, to ensure that they are using the contact lens that best meets their needs. To be able to do this, and to communicate the features and benefits of the contact lenses we are fitting, it’s important that we keep our knowledge up to date on what is available to us to recommend.
They rely on us, their eye care professional, to ensure that they are using the contact lens which best meets their needs
Understanding the patientWhen a patient is first fitted with contact lenses, we tend to gain an understanding of their individual needs by gathering information about how often they would like to wear contact lenses, how long for, and the environments that this is likely to be in, alongside their expectations of contact lens wear. This information, in combination with a careful anterior eye assessment and a consideration of their prescription, helps to support initial contact lens selection. It also helps in being able to offer a contact lens material that will best match their lifestyle, visual and ocular needs and expectations at that point in time.
So, what happens if any of these needs change? In my experience, unless the patient has a specific concern, they are unlikely to return between aftercare appointments when these changes occur. Instead, in response to unmet needs or expectations, they may adjust their wearing pattern, or worse still, discontinue contact lens wear. This is why, for me, a contact lens aftercare appointment, beyond understanding if there have been any refractive or ocular health changes, is a valuable opportunity to re-evaluate whether current contact lenses continue to meet the patient’s needs and expectations.
As lifestyles adapt, patients’ needs adapt too. Using clinical experience and expertise, alongside up-to-date knowledge of the contact lens material and options available, will help ensure that a patient’s contact lens wearing experience evolves in line with their evolving lifestyle and need
Being a locum optometrist, it may be the first time I have met the patient, so I find it valuable to look back over previous clinical records, checking for any information relating to the previous fitting choice, including how long the patient has been using their current contact lenses for. It can be valuable to ask the patient about any changes to their wearing pattern, environment, or to the wearing experience. Sometimes a simple question such as, ‘Is there anything you would like to improve?’ can uncover useful insight. A question I like to ask myself is, ‘If I was fitting this patient as a new wearer into contact lenses today, would I choose the contact lens that they are currently wearing, or would I recommend an alternative?’ I feel that this helps to evaluate whether the patient might benefit from an alternative contact lens, or whether a newer material, not available at their last appointment may better suit their needs.
In cases where an alternative contact lens type may improve the patient’s wearing experience, I feel that patients are most receptive when they understand the real-world benefits that it is likely to bring. For example, offering a contact lens material which is designed to stay comfortable for longer, or maintain its moisture to a patient reporting a deterioration in end of day comfort. Or a contact lens allowing a frustrated first time presbyope to see their mobile phone clearly instead of holding it further and further away.
Marie-Therese’s top tips for locums when speaking to patients about upgrading their contact lenses
- Spend time to uncover whether there have been any changes to the patient’s lifestyle, ocular or visual needs
- Ask yourself, ‘If I was fitting this patient as a new wearer into contact lenses today, would I choose the contact lens that they are currently wearing, or would I recommend an alternative?’
- Explain why you are recommending an alternative option in a simple, jargon-free way, ensuring the patient understands the benefits that it will bring to them.
Contact lens portfolios can differ between practices, so it is useful to become familiar with the contact lenses available in each practice as part of the preparation for the day. As new contact lens materials and technologies evolve, information on new contact lenses is typically shared on contact lens manufacturer websites, or through information published in optical journals or the ACLM Handbook, which is now available online. I like to look out for manufacturer-led online webinars, and find that attending contact lens focused CPD sessions can also be a very useful opportunity to hear feedback on the current experiences of peers.
It’s easy to think that once a patient is successfully fitted with a specific contact lens that they will continue to experience the same level of satisfaction throughout their contact lens lifetime. As lifestyles adapt, patients’ needs adapt too. Using clinical experience and expertise, alongside up-to-date knowledge of the contact lens material and options available, will help ensure that a patient’s contact lens wearing experience evolves in line with their evolving lifestyle and need.
Marie-Therese’s top tips for locums when keeping up to date with contact lens developments
- Look out for articles on the latest contact lens research, or on new contact lens materials in optical journals
- Subscribe to contact lens manufacturer websites to receive information about the launch of new contact lens technologies and be the first to hear first about any product knowledge webinars
- Attend contact lens related CPD sessions to hear the current contact lens fitting experiences of peers.