Industry panel talks state of contact lens industry

April 14, 2016

Contact lens manufacturer representatives discussed the state of the contact lens industry, including consumer education, doctor-patient communication, and legislative battles. Scot Morris, OD, FAAO, posed questions during the Global Contact Lens Forum at Vision Expo East.

New York-Contact lens manufacturer representatives discussed the state of the contact lens industry, including consumer education, doctor-patient communication, and legislative battles. Scot Morris, OD, FAAO, posed questions during the Global Contact Lens Forum at Vision Expo East.

The panel included:

• Ashley McEvoy, company group chairman of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (JJVC) and Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Solutions

• James Kirchner, OD, president and CEO of SynergEyes

• Jerry Warner, president of North America at CooperVision

• Mark McKenna, vice president and general manager, vision care, at Bausch + Lomb

• Robert Warner, global franchise head of vision care at Alcon

Not enough of our patient population is wearing contact lenses, according to Dr. Morris. However, the opportunity is there.

“We have the potential for 2,000 new contact lens patients in every one of our offices every year,” he says.

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What efforts has industry made to help eyecare practitioners (ECPs) better educate consumers?

Education is at the backbone of everything JJVC does, according to McEvoy.

“Having an educated doctor with an informed patient makes for great outcomes,” she says.

McKenna says that consumer education breakdown can happen when ECPs are overwhelmed and don’t implement in the practice the tools that industry has provided.

Innovation is a big part of Alcon’s contributions, according to Robert Warner.

“We have an obligation to stay at the forefront of innovation to help practitioners help their patients,” he says.

With many contact lens manufacturers introducing new technology, it’s understandable that ECPs get overwhelmed, says Jerry Warner.

“Opportunity is your practices right now,” he says. “It’s not about going out to get additional patients but converting existing patients.”

In discussing new contact lens wearers, Dr. Morris reminded attendees any patient with a refractive error is a contact lens candidate.

“One of the challenges we have as a profession is that we don’t think about what we say to patients in the chair,” he says. “Do we have it scripted, or do we shoot from the hip? And are we making a decision in our brains of who should be a good candidate?”

Next: How do you see industry improving the doctor-patient relationship?

 

How do you see industry improving the doctor-patient relationship?

Jerry Warner says the ECP has the ability to influence patient decisions.

“What conversations are ECPs having before the patient walks through the door, while he’s in the office, and after he leaves?” he says. “Contact lenses are not a low-involvement category. We need to create that relationship about opportunity.”

Kirchener says that ECPs fall down in giving messages to patients.

“We need to have better communication with the patient,” he says. “I think industry can be that partner.”

McEvoy wants ECPs and industry to focus on getting contact lens wearers into the category earlier.

“We see significant dropout at the end of month one,” she says. “That’s a big opportunity collectively to help patients stay in lenses. How are we proactively managing that patient to stay in her lenses through allergy season, through hormonal changes, through refractive error changes?”

According to Dr. Morris, practices see an 11 to 13 percent attrition rate due to patients changing insurance plans, moving, or dying. Then add to that the 20 percent contact lens dropout rate.

“If your practice isn’t growing 20 to 25 percent, your practice is getting smaller,” he says. “We can prevent that by taking care of the people sitting in the chair in front of us.”

Next: How can ECPs improve patient education?

 

How can ECPs improve patient education?

McEvoy says ECPs can provide meaningful value in the healthcare system.

“Diabetic patients are a huge opportunity to honor the eye and have a significant impact in health care,” she says.

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How can ECPs and industry collaborate to improve compliance?

Dr. Morris says the biggest problem is the lack of communication from doctor to patient about the dangers of contact lens overwear.

Dr. Kirchener agrees that ECPs are too lenient.

We allow things to happen,” he says. “We don’t communicate aggressively enough. Those patients in the end will drop out of contact wear.”

Dr. Morris jokingly suggested to the panelists that they create a contact lens which self destructs in 30 days.

Next: What role does industry play in legislative concerns, and what impact has UPP had?

 

What role does industry play in legislative concerns, and what impact has UPP had?

JJVC recently announced that it is discontinuing UPP and plans to support advocacy in the profession.

Related: JJVC discontinues UPP, looks to support contact lens advocacy

In 2013, Alcon was the first contact lens manufacturer to embrace UPP.

“Alcon stands for everything that depends the relationship between patient and optometrist,” says Robert Warner. “We continue to fight to keep UPP because we believe it is an important part of bringing patients into new technology.”

Jerry Warner says that the profession uniting around patient safety and outcomes is important, and diligence is required because none of the challenges facing the profession will be going away.

“We’ve been consistent that UPP plays a role in pricing policy,” he says, “especially when you’re introducing new technology. It is just one of the ways in which Cooper has the opportunity to aid the industry.”

McKenna says that for the first time in his 15-year history, he’s seeing the industry come together with the Contact Lens Institute (CLI) for a consistent message. CLI is a non-profit group which represents the interests of the contact lens and lens care industry. Members are Alcon, B+L, CooperVision, and JJVC.

 

 

What are the biggest challenges your company faces?

Dr. Morris asked each panelist to quickly state their companies’ biggest challenges.

Says Robert Warner: “Partnering with ECPs to have this conversation with patients. That is a huge opportunity for us to do more.”

Related: Why you are your biggest obstacle to contact lens success

Says McKenna: “It’s that 75 percent of people who walk in and walk out with the same lens. And that B+L has a ways to go in regaining trust in the market.”

Says Kirchener: “Our challenge is that SynergEyes is such a small player in a large market. It boils back down to the communication with the consumer about the benefits of contact lens wear.”

Says McEvoy: “Help us get consumers to honor their eyes.”

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