Practice team guide

Working as a team to meet evolving needs

Optometrist and past AOP Contact Lens Practitioner of the Year, Faye McDearmid, shares her tips on the role every team member has to play in reducing contact lens drop out


Changes in technology can be dramatic – the smartphone that brings entertainment, navigation and social connection into the palm of your hand is a distant, sophisticated cousin of its brick-like ancestors.

But less visible effects of innovation can have a profound impact on our daily lives. Within the field of contact lenses, developments in material technology have enhanced patient comfort and vision, as well as broadening the pool of potential wearers.

Optometrist and past AOP Contact Lens Practitioner of the Year, Faye McDearmid, highlighted to OT that that just as it is unlikely for someone to own one mobile phone across their lifetime, it is also unlikely that they will wear one type of contact lens.

“Let the patient know there is choice when it comes to lenses and it may be that something occasionally needs tweaking to make them happy again,” she said.

As well as staying informed about developments in technology, optical professionals can offer patients choice in the context of the current financial climate.

An OT poll of 65 optometrists in August found that 85% had seen a change in spending habits as a result of cost of living pressures.

“The current worries about cost of living, inflation and the recession may have patients more concerned about costs, so know the options you can offer,” McDearmid advised.

For example, can ‘pay as you go’ customers be offered a monthly subscription at a lower rate? Or can those already on a subscription for 30 pairs be offered a subscription for 20 or 10 pairs?

“That way they can still enjoy the benefits of lens wear for the activities they need them for the most,” McDearmid highlighted.

She emphasised the important role that every person within the practice team has in supporting contact lens patients.

When people are fitted and don’t return, it’s often something simple that could easily be resolved if we knew about it

Faye McDearmid

Practice team members are often the ones who receive questions either on the phone or on the shop floor about contact lens wear.

Common reasons for contact lens drop out relate to issues with comfort and vision, McDearmid highlighted.

“If you’re in the practice team and a patient comes to you with concerns about their lenses, is planning to reduce their wear frequency, or wishes to cancel their subscription – find out as much information as you can,” she advised.

This information can then be passed on to the clinician who may be able to address issues at a follow up appointment.

“With improved materials and lens designs to support vision and comfort in lenses it’s a shame for our patients to lose out on all the benefits and things they enjoyed about lens wear when it may be a simple fix,” McDearmid observed.

Starting the conversation

During the 17 years McDearmid has worked in the optical industry, she has observed that people will not hesitate to ask about new glasses after a change in vision.

However, this same request does not come up in relation to contact lenses.

“Patients don’t think about contact lenses; why would they? They look to us to identify their need for vision correction and recommend appropriate solutions for them based on their needs, lifestyle and personal preference,” McDearmid shared.

Her favourite questions to start a conversation about contact lenses include asking if a patient would like to reduce their reliance on glasses or enquiring about how they find wearing glasses during different sports and activities.

For example, many runners and horse riders find it challenging to wear glasses.

“They fog up, get rained on, slip and become more of a hindrance than help,” McDearmid observed.

She is then able to present contact lenses as alternative that can be tailored to their needs.

Help at hand

For McDearmid, contact lens care does not end when the patient leaves the practice with their new lenses in hand.

She emphasised the importance of keeping in touch between visits to ensure that the patient continues to receive optimal performance from their lenses.

“When people are fitted and don’t return, it’s often something simple that could easily be resolved if we knew about it, so make it your mission to find out,” McDearmid said.

She keeps in touch with any patients who are trialling contact lenses.

“We make the emails personal, encouraging those who want the contact lenses for a specific activity to send in a photo, so that we can celebrate their success with them,” she shared.