As aides to eye-care professionals, paraoptometrics can use their clinical expertise to prevent patients from committing a myriad of contact-lens wearer "crimes," including wearing the same pair of disposable contact lenses for months at a time, rewetting lenses in their mouths, or growing a bacteria colony in their lens cases.
"We don't want those kinds of situations happening in our offices," said Dr. Wesley, who is in private practice in Medina, MN.
To ensure that CL patients remain trouble-free, paraoptometrics must stay informed about the latest lens technology, be aware of potential complications and their treatment, and develop strategies for addressing noncompliance issues.
Although patients have many information sources, paraoptometrics maintain an important role in providing them with accurate details about new lens products and successfully refitting patients into silicone hydrogel (SiHy) lenses.
"People may think they're doing fine in their lenses, but they don't know what they're missing," Dr. Wesley said. She added, however, that many patients wearing rigid gas permeable lens are very loyal to this technology-and also have excellent vision with these lenses- and often are not interested in newer products.
Nonetheless, telling patients about new technology is part of the service provided for the CL fitting fee, Dr. Wesley said. "I want patients to feel that every time they're coming to see me, they're getting new information, even if they don't change their lenses," she explained.
She also suggested that paraoptometrics become familiar with a range of products so that they can provide more personalized advice to patients.
"Not all [SiHy] lenses are great for every person," she said. "I invite you to try a variety of lenses in your practices. I always try the new stuff to see what's good, what's better. I want to be able to relate that personal experience to my patients, especially to those who may have similar physiology to me or a similar prescription to mine. I'll tell patients when a lens didn't work out for me but might be great for them and explain the reasons why."
SiHy lenses are generally comfortable because of their high oxygen permeability, but comfort is extremely subjective and can be a challenging issue for the paraoptometric. When it isn't adequately addressed, discomfort is the number one reason patients drop out of lens wear.
At times, the lens may look great clinically but still cause discomfort. One possible problem is a mismatch between the lens and the solution, which the paraoptometric can help resolve by educating patients about which solutions are compatible with their lenses, Dr. Wesley said.
If you can keep even a few patients each month from dropping out because of lens wear complications, it's a benefit to the practice, she added. The current mean annual revenue from each U.S. CL patient is $275, while the median lifetime future value of a single new CL patient is $21,695, according to data from a study by John Rumpakis, OD. (Rev Optom. 2010 Jan;147(1):37-42)
Since the average loss of 16% of CL patients in the United States every year can cost the practice tens of thousands of dollars, helping patients maintain a safe and comfortable lens wear routine is a plus for the practice as well as its clients.