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HomemicontactLife, The Universe and Contact Lenses

Life, The Universe and Contact Lenses

Understanding where each patient is coming from, and helping them meet their goals, is critical to success.

One thing is certain; people are constantly on the move, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. Having worked with me for many years in practice, my wife Karen came across many travellers. One of the things she was faced with, on an almost daily basis in our busy optometric and contact lens speciality practice, were frantic requests from unprepared travellers.

More often than not, these were people from overseas. In many cases, they had private label contact lenses. They needed a lens pack immediately because they were leaving town later in the day or the following morning. They’d have no Rx with them and simply wanted some ‘minus four’ disposables, or whatever the case was. Poor planning often meant they possessed no backup spectacles, had already been overwearing their lenses, and now they’d damaged one or simply run out.

Karen, or other colleagues in the practice, would bring me a blister pack or box seeking help. In nearly every case I was able to identify the lens brand from the packaging, specifications or polymer type. Of course quite often these would not be lenses we had in stock. Where possible we’d provide an emergency pair of trial lenses to keep them going and offer to order and courier some to their next destination. In some cases we’d need to squeeze them in to do a trial fit and provide alternative lenses.

one needs to have standards and be confident, but having empathy, and understanding your patients and what drives them, is critical to success

Tip of the Month

With this in mind, Karen’s advice is to ensure patients are stocked up with enough lenses, solutions and eye drops for the duration of their trip, as well as ensuring they have decent sunglasses, backup spectacles and copies of their prescriptions.

With Kiwis and Aussies being the world travellers they are, I often supplied my patients with the aforementioned items and enough stock. They were always very grateful. As well as offering convenience, it can be a money saver for them too; having to sort things out in foreign places can often delay the trip or be significantly more expensive.

I also regularly saw patients who dropped in ahead of a trip to collect their spec Rx. They wanted to pick up some cheap glasses in Vietnam, Bangkok etc. Many were happy with their single vision backup specs purchased overseas. Some were of decent quality and made up in quality high index lenses. Many were not – thick lenses, coating failures, warranty issues and adaptation problems with complex prescriptions and progressives were a common problem. I saw that as an opportunity to prescribe and dispense top class lenses for their next trip.


Surprisingly, I often hear optometrists complain about patients like this, and some practitioners even refuse to see a patient who buys contact lenses or spectacles online. How myopic! Instead of turning it into an opportunity and clipping the ticket for many years to come, they alienate the patient who is then lost.

Their loss, our win.

Such pettiness is an ego driven thing, with an insecure practitioner overreacting to what are, these days, commonplace issues. Many of those same practitioners have double standards – they, too, are guilty of visiting retail stores, camera shops, shoe shops and the like, trying things out, then buying the same items online as “it’s way cheaper”.

People are strange.

Of course one needs to have standards and be confident, but having empathy, and understanding your patients and what drives them, is critical to success.

Passion is, of course, the cornerstone of what makes for successful practitioners. It’s difficult to be passionate about something you’re not mad about. Yet it seems some practitioners are simply stuck in a rut, churning out patients so as to make a living. It must be damn hard to do that day in, day out for 40 years. I suspect this is one of the contributors to increasing burnout in our sector.

Some are lucky enough to find something that reignites their passion. It could be finding your niche, or a new speciality such as myopia control or OrthoK; opening a flash new practice, redecorating, or getting into optical coherence tomography, therapeutics prescribing or something else… whatever it is, it’s essential to find what you need to keep your approach to eye health fresh and exciting.

Life Beyond Practice

Another thing that surprises me is the lack of foresight among practitioners. As I’ve mentioned before, too many have not paid attention to succession planning or the state of their practices. When they reach that point in life, where they want to move on to enjoy their twilight years, they’re faced with a practice of little or no value. Sometimes they have to walk away, give away their records or sell them for a measly amount. (It’s a legal requirement to pass on active patient records for continuity of care).

A lifetime of effort has seemingly been of little value.

Make a Plan

About nine years ago Karen and I put our 10-year plan in place. I’m pleased to say we achieved everything we set out to do, a year ahead of schedule.

It’s essential to have vision, a plan of what you want to do, where you want to be and to actively work on these things. I look back with interest at our ‘mind maps’, on poster-size sheets of paper. In this way we’d itemised, planned and considered each scenario.

If you don’t plan, it simply becomes a pipe dream. One day you wake up from a stroke, wondering where your dream to see the world and enjoy life-beyond-work, has gone.