With much of the digital revolution occurring after 2008 and most contact lens technology developing well before it, there is an inherent design feature mismatch. The majority of the available contact lenses are not designed for how patients are using their eyes. Specifically, older-generation materials and designs feature technology that isn’t optimized for how we stare at multiple digital devices for nearly all of our waking hours.
It wasn’t until just a few short years ago that we became a digital-device–obsessed nation. For example, it seems like smartphones have been part of our lives forever, but the reality is that the first iPhone debuted in mid-2007. The iPad was released in 2010. Factor in social media not really taking off until 2008, and you begin to see a picture that helps explain why so many of our patients are struggling with contact lens technology that predates their mobile technology.
Previously from Dr. Bazan: Handling patients who want you to adjust glasses purchased online
Many of my patients are also on laptops, desktops, tablets, and TVs—many of them using multiple devices at the same time. That is a great deal of screen time, and it only seems to be increasing. The jury is still out on how much these digital devices are harming our ocular health, but one thing is for certain: While using these devices, our blink rates drop dramatically.
This reduction in blinking has led to contact lens-related dryness for patients who have likely upgraded their smartphones but not their contact lenses. Optometrists should be proactive in offering their patients solutions to digital device-induced dryness.
Missing the opportunity
However, ODs may be missing the opportunity to offer their patients the solutions they need.
For example, it’s become a habit for ODs to simply ask their patients how they are doing with their contact lenses. If we hear, “Fine,” we move on. This saves us time, but is it really in the best interest of the patient?
Our patients are accepting end-of-day discomfort as the norm because they don’t realize there are better options. It's also important to point out that in the past, we often didn’t have a better option to offer. All we could often hope to hear was, “Fine,” because we didn’t have the upgrade available.
Now, however, I encourage all optometrists to ask questions to find out how their patients are really doing with their contacts lenses. Uncover concerns that patients may perceive as just a normal part of wearing lenses, such as dryness.
What works well for me is to assume that those long hours in front of a laptop or device are leading to comfort problems. A question that works well for me is, “How dry are your lenses feeling around 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night?”
That question accomplishes a few goals. It alerts patients that dryness is expected and something I want to hear more about. It also lets them know that even if they thought their contact lenses were fine, there is something that may be better. Once a challenge is uncovered, it is easy to get a trial of the upgraded contact lens on patients’ eyes and out for a test drive.
Patients know that the next generation of smartphone will be “better”—that is, faster, more powerful, more storage, better camera, and so on. They know this because smartphone manufacturers market to them in very effective ways.
Unfortunately, contact lens companies don’t have the means necessary to replicate that type of marketing. So, ODs need to step up to the plate to inform patients about the benefits of upgraded contact lens technology.
Contact lens manufacturers are bringing new technology to your practice. Consider upgrading your patients to some of these new technology lenses:
• Acuvue Vita (Johnson & Johnson Vision Care) monthly lenses feature the company’s HydraMax Technology for a non-coated silicone hydrogel material to maintain lens hydration throughout the day.
• Biofinity Energys (CooperVision) monthly lenses address device usage with the company’s aspheric Digital Zone Optics to reduce fatigue and Aquaform Technology to reduce dryness.
• Biotrue ONEday (Bausch + Lomb) daily disposables incorporate the company’s Surface Active Technology—hydrophilic polyvinylpyrrilidone (PVP), a water loving molecule, and Poloxamer 407, a surface active macromer—to form a dehydration barrier that helps the lens maintain moisture for most of the day. This lens is available in toric and presbyopic designs as well.
• Dailies Total 1 (Alcon) daily disposable water-gradient lenses combine high oxygen permeability with high water content for a soft hydrophilic surface gel for improved comfort. These lenses are available in a multifocal design as well.
• MyDay (CooperVision) daily disposable incorporates Smart Silicone, the company’s material that uses only 4.4 percent silicon, allowing for the soft feel of a hydrogel lens with the oxygen transmission of silicone hydrogel material.
• Ultra (Bausch + Lomb) monthly lenses feature the company’s MoistureSeal Technology to help maintain 95 percent of the lens moisture for most of the day plus aspheric optics, high-water content, and low modulus for better comfort and vision with device usage.
Related: New technology helps IOP measurement
Offer a trial
Innovations have united comfort, health, and vision in ways that will far surpass previous technology—much like smartphones have virtually eliminated flip phones. That trinity is the goal for our contact lens wearers.
Once achieved, we find patients loving their contact lens experiences. They have:
• Lenses that don’t require attention throughout the day because they are drying out
• Lenses that don’t interrupt their daily flow
• Lenses that don’t disrupt their lives
So many patients who were doing “fine” are now doing great. Often optometrists do patients a huge disservice by not at least offering a trial of innovative technology. Allowing a patient to experience how much better these new lenses can be may make a huge difference. It certainly pays off for the patient. How does it pay off for you?
Finally, consider this common story. A patient contacts the office to say, “I know my prescription is expired, but I also know my prescription hasn’t changed. Can you just send me a new copy of it, please?”
Let me translate that into what the patient is really saying. “I know that when I come in, you are going to ask me how my contact lenses are. When I say, ‘Fine,’ you are just going to give me the same brand you have given me for the last 10 years. I resent having to pay you for that!”
Have you become a burden to your patients? Are you an unnecessary step standing in the way of them ordering their cheap contact lenses online? Yes! Make sure your patients value your services by providing them with value in turn.
Beyond the education you should be providing, there is a psychological aspect to our contact lens exam. If you present innovative technology to your patients the same way technology companies present new features, expect to see your patients look forward to upgrading their contact lenses much in the same way they do their smartphones.