How do I…

Improving contact lens conversion

Optometrist and head of professional affairs at Alcon, Jonathon Bench, shares insight into what practices can do to support patients trialling contact lenses

Contact lens on finger

Statistics report that 50% of all new contact lens trialists do not go on to become contact lens wearers.

Furthermore, 33% of new contact lens wearers stop wearing contact lenses after the first year.

For me, patients fall out of contact lens wear for one of three main reasons. They are: comfort (or discomfort), vision (they are not getting the vision that they expect from the lenses) and handling.

While each of these reasons for drop out are different, they can often all be traced back to the quality of communication during the trial and fitting, and how a patient’s expectations are met.

The art of communication

In terms of better supporting the patient in contact lens wear, communication is key. It is important for the practitioner to take the time to ask the patient the right, open questions. The right question could be the second or third question that a practitioner asks before they truly understand the patient’s needs and can better understand what contact lens option they should be proposing to them.

Keep their motivation high, partner with them, support them and more often than not, you will drive an increase in the conversion rate between trialling and becoming a contact lens wearer

Jonathon Bench

Once a practitioner thinks they have understood a patient’s needs, I would advise relaying back to the patient what they have heard so that the patient can confirm that the practitioner has understood them correctly. This process will save more time in the long run when compared to asking the same closed, scripted questions to all patients whereby practitioners will receive an answer, but it may not be the right answer.

Aftercare benefits

It is important to remember that when a patient is embarking on the journey to becoming a contact lens wearer, it can be scary and intimidating and they don’t know what to expect. That lack of knowledge can often create a sense of paralysis and patients don’t want to let their optometrist down.

Therefore, creating a framework or partnership rather than transacting through the fitting process is key.

I advise arranging a day and time to call contact lens trial patients after their fitting. This call doesn’t have to be made by the optometrist or contact lens optician, it can be made by the member of the support team who has helped to coach the patient on how to apply and remove lenses safely and competently. Arrange the call during the handling appointment and explain that its purpose is to simply check in to see how it is going.

This call enables the team member to reassure the patient that they are not unusual in what they might be experiencing and remind them of the techniques that they should be doing. However, most importantly, it gives them the opportunity to say, ‘Come back in and let us help you with that,’ if needed. This ensures that the patient’s motivation for contact lens wear remains high.

Keep their motivation high, partner with them, support them and more often than not, you will drive an increase in the conversion rate between trialling and becoming a contact lens wearer.

Support from staff

Every year that goes by, the more I realise that in order to be a great eye care practitioner, you need to have a wonderful team around you.

The practice support team is who really make a difference when it comes to the making of a contact lens wearer, so let them support these patients. Support staff, in the most part, can spend more time with the patient than the clinician. It’s the member of the practice team who helps the patient learn and be confident about applying and removing lenses. Therefore, it’s wonderful to see the support team embrace this role, and when the patient comes back and doesn’t ask for Jonathon the optometrist who fitted them, but Jane the optical assistant who made being a contact lens wearer a reality, it’s very rewarding.

  • As told to Emily McCormick.