Cheryl Guttman Krader is a contributor to Dermatology Times, Ophthalmology Times, and Urology Times.
Optometrists who are not part of the growing trend might want to consider the potential benefits of fitting daily disposable lenses and reconsider their perceived objections.
Daily disposable contact lenses account for a growing number of contact lens fittings in the United States, increasing from 12 percent of fits in 2012 to 19 percent in 2017, and the growth is coming from fitting of silicone hydrogel lenses.1,2
Optometrists who are not part of the growing trend might want to consider the potential benefits of fitting daily disposable lenses and reconsider their perceived objections, says Ross Grant, OD. Dr. Grant is founding partner of ToolBox, a company that provides training and consultancy services for the optical and pharmaceutical professions, based in Zurich, Switzerland.
“Successfully incorporating fitting of daily disposable contact lenses can improve your relationship with patients and be a practice builder, allowing you to meet a broader spectrum of patients’ needs,” says Dr. Grant.
Refuting the drawbacks
Some ODs lean toward fitting frequent replacement lenses because they believe the reusable lenses are a less expensive option than daily disposables for their patients. However, daily disposables eliminate the need to buy lens care products, and for patients who are not wearing contact lenses every day, daily disposable contact lens wear may cost the same or less than a frequent replacement option.3
In some cases, ODs think that they are at risk for losing revenue when patients are fit in daily disposable contact lenses because these patients may turn to the Internet or a retail source to purchase their lenses and then can be lost to follow-up.
However, frequent replacement lenses are also widely available for purchase online. Importantly, the risks of complications such as inflammation and infection have been shown to be higher among people obtaining their lenses through online optical retailers because they may demonstrate less care about their hygiene procedures.4
“Optometrists can retain their patients’ business by creating their own Web-based shops and including education on compliance and aftercare at every appointment,” says Dr. Grant.
Environmentally conscious individuals may also be concerned about the amount of waste associated with daily disposable contact lenses and their packaging. Notably, one company (Bausch + Lomb) has addressed this issue by implementing a recycling program for its lens blister packs. The program is called One by One, and B+L partnered with TerraCycle to make it h
Advantages of daily disposables
For patients, daily disposable contact lenses offer many advantages. They represent a more hygienic choice than a frequent replacement lens with less exposure to chemicals because the lenses are not disinfected before wear.
“With a daily disposable system, the contact lens remains sterile until it is removed from its packaging for placement on the eye,” says Dr. Grant. “This high level of hygiene is of course wasted if patients do not wash their hands or apply the lenses in a clean environment, hence the need for regular emphasis on these.”
Daily disposable lenses have also been demonstrated to have a lower risk of infections than reusable lenses.5
Convenience beyond avoiding the task of lens care is another benefit of daily disposables.
“There are many patients who do not want to wear their contact lenses on a daily basis but instead would like to have them for select situations, such as when playing sports or attending social events,” says Dr. Grant. “Because daily disposable contact lenses are extremely portable and do not need to be cleaned and disinfected, they can be readily available for as-needed use by these part-time wearers.”
From a physiological perspective, because daily disposable lenses are meant to be worn only during the day and not during sleep, there is less pressure for super-high oxygen permeability for the materials. This allows daily disposable lenses to have a higher hydrogel content and still achieve excellent daily wear oxygen transmission with less hydrophobic silicone content.
Products and services
To combat loss of revenue from patients purchasing contact lenses through other sources, ODs should make lenses available through their practice websites at a price that is competitive. This may mean separating out professional fees for examinations and aftercare that adds perceived value to these professional services.
“Optometrists will have a better chance of competing for online sales when the charges for contact lenses are transparent to patients and distinct from the charges for the fitting and after care,” Dr. Grant says.
Encouraging patients to remain compliant with returning for routine visits depends on providing proper education and using an appropriate method for follow-up communications. ODs should keep in mind that some patients, particularly younger patients, prefer to receive short message reminders about scheduling an appointment via text. Others might favor receiving notifications by email or being contacted by telephone.
“Be sure to ask patients about their preferred communication mode. Do not just send out notices in the mail assuming they will be opened and read,” says Dr. Grant.
1. Morgan PB, Woods CA, Tranoudis IG, et al. International contact lens prescribing in 2012. Contact Lens Spectrum. 2013;28:31-38,44.
2. Morgan PB, Woods CA, Tranoudis IG, et al. International contact lens prescribing in 2017. Contact Lens Spectrum. 2018;33:28-33.
3. Efron N, Efron SE, Morgan PB, Morgan SL. A ‘cost-per-wear’ model based on contact lens replacement frequency. Clin Exp Optom. 2010;93:4:253-260.
4. Young G, Young AGH, Lakkis C. Review of complications associated with contact lenses from unregulated sources. Eye Contact Lens. 2014;40:58-64.
5. Chalmers RL, Keay L, McNally J, Kern J. Multicenter case-control study of the role of lens materials and care products on the development of corneal infiltrates. Optom Vis Sci. 2012;89(3):316-325.