The role of the practice team
From diary management to guiding patients through application and removal training, OT hears how each member of the practice team has a role to play in contact lens success
07 December 2023
When it comes to a streamlined contact lens journey, the role of every practice team member is key. A patient who is identified as suitable for contact lenses in the consulting room can be guided by the practice team, from recommendation to fit.
Preparation also plays a crucial role. Diary management, checking stock levels and sending application and removal information in advance of an appointment can all contribute to an efficient contact lens fit.
OT speaks with optometrists for their tips on championing the skills of the practice team and laying the groundwork for a successful contact lens trial.
Preparation makes perfect
Clinical lead optometrist at Lynne Fernandes Optometrists, Rebecca Donnelly, highlighted the key role that front of house staff play when it comes to contact lenses.
“This is as important as the optometrist’s job. They are the first point of contact for the patient so need to understand the patient’s needs and be able to answer questions the patient may have,” she said.
Practice team members need to be able to identify patients who may require contact lenses to be ordered in for their trial. Donnelly emphasised the importance of diary management, ensuring that an application and removal session can be booked to coincide directly after the contact lens fitting appointment.
“The practice team is responsible for the contact lens teach so they need to be patient and empathetic, and know about the risks of contact lens wear when advising the patient on care and handling,” she said.
Continuity of care can be supported by practice team members setting up patients on a messaging system to support them during the trial period and checking in with patients by phone.
“This all helps to lead to a pleasant and smooth experience for the patient, a successful trial and future compliance with lenses,” Donnelly emphasised.
Staff are confident on the topic of contact lenses in all settings, from myopia management to straight forward soft lenses
Principal optometrist and director at Querido & Davidson Optometrists, John Davidson, shared that his Hakim Group independent practice always ensures there are staff with the right training to perform an application and removal session on the same day as the fitting.
“We always ensure that we have an up-to-date prescription to work with before commencing a fitting. A contact lens extended trial will last approximately two weeks, so we make sure that we have ordered the correct prescription for their trial period,” he said.
In the patient post eye examination handover, potential fittings are tagged giving the front of house team the opportunity to further explore opportunities for contact lens wear.
Patients who have not previously tried contact lenses will be offered a contact lens experience – giving them the opportunity to see what a lens feels like for an hour.
“This helps break through any psychological comfort barriers that they may have as discussed in the EASE 2009 study,”4 he shared.
Standard operating procedures and training helps to ensure that all team members are comfortable speaking about contact lenses.
“Our team is confident on the topic of contact lenses in all settings, from myopia management to single vision soft lenses,” Davidson highlighted.
Everyone plays a vital role in a perfect contact lens experience
Optometrist and ophthalmic director at Specsavers Northallerton, Rebecca Troughton, shared that keeping the whole team engaged in order to champion contact lenses is key to success.
“From call centre to retail team and professionals, everyone plays a vital role in a great contact lens experience,” she said. At Specsavers Northallerton, Troughton shared that the retail team is trained to help patients complete pre-trial questionnaires – which helps to prepare for “first fit success.”
“A dedicated contact lens team looks after trial bank stock and ordering as well as being the main port of call for more complex queries,” she said.
Team members receive training on handling to work alongside a contact lens optician and optometrists, offering access to contact lens care every day of the week.
Training the team
Optometrist Rachael Smith, of Rawlings Opticians, shared that like many businesses following the pandemic, the group of optometry practices was left with a reduced staffing level and has been through a process of recruiting new team members.
Rawlings Opticians is now undertaking a programme of contact lens hygiene and handling training for each patient-facing team member across the group’s 10 branches.
“It has taken time, but we are now well staffed with great teams in each branch, and having this stability is a great foundation to build on,” Smith said.
She shared that within the group’s monthly Direct Debit eye care plan, a free contact lens fitting appointment is included.
“We find this to be a good stimulant for new fits, and an additional good reason to join the plan.”
When a patient books an initial contact lens trial, the front of house team will ask the patient whether they are likely to be interested in a monthly replacement or a daily disposable option so the optometrist or contact lens optician can order the appropriate trial lenses in advance.
A word on…
Optometrists share their words of wisdom on two areas of contact lens practice
Upgrades“Patients are accustomed to upgrading their technology such as phones or watches over time these days. On the whole, they are happy to try new products as long as the benefit to them is clearly explained. It is important to have a good grasp of the features and benefits of new products. The last thing you want is a patient to ask you a question about a lens that you cannot answer.”
“I am a believer in always allowing the patient to make the decision on whether they can afford a more expensive product, whether that is an upgrade in contact lens design, progressive lens design or a boutique spectacle frame. Some patients place more value on their eye care, eyewear and contact lenses than others and will therefore be happy to spend more on a better product as they can understand the advantages the product will offer them.”
“Our practice is lucky to have two optometrists with experience in dry eye management. We find it extremely beneficial to manage the dry eye prior to commencing lens fitting to give patients a better chance of success. This also allows us to manage patient expectations with respect to wearing time. Keep the lenses comfortable and you have a happy patient.”
“Before I even begin with a contact lens patient, if they have dry eye or dryness symptoms then I encourage them to address that first. When you have existing contact lens wearers who are clearly having an ocular surface issue, it is paramount that you manage it. You need to appreciate the role that managing dry eye plays in patient success in contact lenses. If they are uncomfortable because their eyes are dry, that is going to affect your success rate.”
- CVI data on file 2023. CooperVision Fresh Thinking Eye Care Professional Survey, n= 580. Optical practice staff opinion on booking patients in for an application and removal tuition for the same day as their contact lens fitting
- CVI data on file 2023. CooperVision Fresh Thinking Eye Care Professional Survey, n= 576. Optical practice staff's opinion on conducting application and removal tuition for new contact lens wearers
- CVI data on file 2023. CooperVision Fresh Thinking Eye Care Professional Survey, n= 532. Optical practice staff's view on the amount of non-chair time visits, for a new contact lens wearer
- Atkins, N. P., Morgan, S.L., Morgan, P.B.., Enhancing the approach to selecting eyewear (EASE): A multi-centre practice-based study into the effect of applying contact lenses prior to spectacle dispensing. Cont Lens and Anterior Eye 2009; June 32(3):103-7