Almost daily there is a battle between the impersonal online contact lens companies and the eyecare professionals who put their time and energy into providing patients with contact lenses that have the most precise fit and comfort.
Patients and trust
For most professionals, we understand that our care begins during our patient’s first appointment. Our intention is always to improve our patients’ lives by providing them with the most up-to-date comprehensive eye care with an assumption we will have the opportunity to finish their eye care by providing the contact lenses prescribed.
It is a belief because our patients have made a conscious decision to come to us for their eye care. It begins the moment that decision is made and continues as trust is built between prescribers and patients.
It comes as no surprise then that we would feel rejection and lack of trust when our ability to provide products that would help us complete our patient’s eye care is taken out of our hands.
It seems odd when a patient is surprised by our lack of enthusiasm as we hand over her contact lens prescription. How can she not be aware of the way eyecare professionals view a contact lens prescription going out the door following the measurements and time needed for contact lens fittings. Perhaps she doesn’t understand the education that is required, or perhaps she assumes contact lens fittings are performed randomly—we just guess at the best lens or even choose the most expensive lenses available.
Some blogs, such as coyoteblog.com, suggest that prescribing physicians try to charge patients as much as we can. Such websites attempt to reinforce assumptions by patients that lost revenue is eyecare professionals’ driving force to prescribe and dispense contact lenses.
Loss of care
When patients opt to purchase their contact lenses elsewhere, it is lost revenue for sure. However, the well-trained team will understand that the loss is more than a monetary loss.
We lose the ability to provide the contact lenses we have prescribed, taking away our ability to monitor the effectiveness of the recommended contact lenses for our patients going forward. We are acutely aware that patients may potentially wear contact lenses that have not been prescribed for 12 months or longer.
What patients don’t know
We understand contact lenses are medical devices and should never be worn without medical supervision. There are cases of contact lenses sold without prescriptions, and have caused terrible eye infections, permanent vision damage, and in some cases blindness. Both eyecare practitioners and staff have difficulty understanding why anyone would want to risk her vision for a few dollars.
Not everyone recognizes that contact lenses do not fit perfectly by accident. Fittings often require multiple visits with diagnostic and sophisticated testing, and sometimes several trials of different types of contact lenses are necessary.