Just as we enter the prime of our lives—after we have completed our schooling, established ourselves as leaders in our workplaces, and become financially secure—our natural lens loses its flexibility, and we realize we can no longer see the food on our plate or read text messages without glasses. Presbyopia is often the first outward sign of aging we cannot deny or hide.
Despite a surging global presbyopic market of 1.7 billion persons (Table 1),1 many practices seem to have their own cases of presbyopia, either ignoring or failing to proactively approach the patients right in front of them. It is common for presbyopic patients to leave these practices feeling that their frustration with reading was not adequately addressed. What practices must realize is that the typical presbyopic patient is different from the young refractive surgery candidate or the elderly cataract patient that they are used to catering to; therefore, these patients require a unique outreach and approach.
Many presbyopes view themselves as physically fit and feel younger than their chronological age. They also find glasses or contacts lenses intrusive in their lifestyles.2Although the overall consensus is that loss of near vision is a significant and emotional event,3 advertising aimed at presbyopes commonly depicts older individuals—a demographic that many presbyopes do not relate to. The typical presbyope is educated and responsible, is an early adopter of new technology, and does extensive online research.4
Recent data show that people in the presbyope demographic (between 47 and 65 years of age) represent nearly 50% of all consumer spending and are willing to pay a premium when they feel the true cost is warranted.5 They are familiar with the success of LASIK and cataract surgeries and have been waiting for something similarly beneficial for them. Because much of the presbyopia-correcting technology is new, presbyopes must be made aware of their options and educated and convinced of the best solutions for their eyes. Properly preparing your staff and practice specifically for this group will reap the greatest benefits and expand the services you provide.
MAKE A COMMITTMENT
Preparing your practice for the presbyopic patient starts with a firm commitment from key decision makers, including the doctor and practice manager, to be leaders in the field of presbyopia correction. LASIK and cataract surgeries are well known by the general population, and many resources are available for education; however, presbyopia treatment is a newer endeavor. Learning how to attract and treat this group means blazing a trail rather than looking for best practices from other ophthalmology groups.
One company that is providing its customers with the tools to build a presbyopia practice is AcuFocus, Inc. Training modules, including a monovision alternative program (MAP), are used to train front office staff, counselors, clinical staff, and doctors on how to engage and relate to the presbyope in particular. MAP provides step-by-step guidance for introducing the Kamra corneal inlay (AcuFocus) into a practice, including key communication messages and guidelines for setting realistic expectations. This program helps the staff understand how this presbyopia-correcting procedure differs from other options available, such as monovision and reading glasses.
INVOLVE AND EDUCATE THE ENTIRE ORGANIZATION
New technologies often are accompanied by myths and inconsistencies in information and understanding. One important marketing tool is to have consistent communication with patients, from the initial contact through to visits with the doctor and the treatment itself. This requires all members of the practice to have the tools, the knowledge, and the confidence to answer any questions. While the front desk staff does not need to provide the same level of technical information as the physician, they do need to answer basic questions and, most important, listen to patients and identify those who are potentially interested in help for presbyopia.
Staff should be taught to understand and empathize with presbyopes. This can include hiring a lively presbyope to relay stories to your staff about the frustrations of losing near vision or having your staff members wear 1.75 D trial frames for an hour to understand the hindrance firsthand. This approach will help your team better appreciate the type of pain that presbyopes feel and their motivation to seek a permanent solution.
Another way to involve your staff is to offer the treatment to a member of your team who is presbyopic and seeking to reduce spectacle dependence, especially a senior staff member or a physician. Firsthand experience with the procedure and recovery process can be an amazing testimonial to share with and boost the confidence of staff and future patients.
CREATE A MARKETING PLAN
The best way to start building awareness of this advanced treatment for presbyopia is with current patients. Banners, posters, direct mail or e-mail campaigns, and online resources such as your website and social media channels can all be utilized. Most refractive surgical practices have large databases of past and current patients and their vision concerns. E-mail and direct mail campaigns help practices reach out to prospective patients and educate them about advances in presbyopic care that can improve their quality of life. If you use this strategy, be sure to have an appropriate call to action so that patients understand the next steps to determine if they are an appropriate candidate.
People in the presbyopic demographic tend to be early adopters of new technology, and therefore creative interactive educational tools are also valuable. For instance, you can use a tablet device such as the iPad (Apple) to show patients educational materials on presbyopia solutions while they are in your reception area. Creating interactive smartphone applications (apps) to ensure postoperative compliance emphasizes that your practice and treatments are as high-tech and cutting edge as your patients are (or want to be). Using a tablet device also transforms the counseling experience from solely auditory to auditory and visual.
Lastly, incorporate a checklist that goes into every patient chart to remind staff to talk about your preferred presbyopia treatment (Figure 1). When possible, hire or assign a presbyope to counsel potential patients about the technologies and options for this patient group. Create a message that will resonate with this unique demographic.
FEEDBACK, SURVEYS, AND TESTIMONIALS
Once you begin a campaign to attract and support presbyopes, follow-up with regular feedback mechanisms. These patients use experience rather than price as a primary criterion to choose a practice. Ask patients for feedback on your service and educational materials, and then make appropriate changes. This can be done using surveys and making them a part of the follow-up eye check. Track conversion rates to guide your strategy so that you focus on those tactics that bring the greatest returns. Review your processes every 90 days and fine-tune them accordingly.
Do not miss the opportunity for patient testimonials, which can be more valuable than any advertisement. Use patients’ comments as third-party endorsements, and invite patients to friend your practice on Facebook. Hearing from someone else that he or she had a good experience eliminates many fears and doubts and can positively affect your conversion rates. Social media are fast becoming the communication vehicles of choice for patients seeking information on medical procedures to address their needs. Therefore, it is important to explore these media channels and actively participate in their use.
With more presbyopia-correction options today than ever before, it is an excellent time to establish yourself and your practice as a leader. A successful approach must be directly targeted to the presbyopic patient; recognizing the unique wants and needs of these patients and thoroughly educating your staff are keys to your success.
Prepare an aggressive plan to reach out to this market, and make a commitment this week to complete one of the suggestions above, such as having all of your staff wear 1.75 D lenses or analyzing how many presbyopes you already have in your database. Adapting your practice to help presbyopes change their lives can be rewarding. Take the first step.
Rob Kay, ORT, is an employee of AcuFocus, Inc. He may be reached at e-mail: rkay@acufocus. com.
Boon Siong Lim is the CEO of Vista Eye Specialist in Malaysia. He states that he has no financial interest in the products or companies mentioned. He may be reached at tel: +60 12 283 7927; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Market Scope, LLC. 2011 Global Presbyopia-Correcting Surgery Market, report.
- Ashi Corp. 2007 Survey, sample size: 1,736 male and female.
- Acufocus: Market Study of Presbyopes. Data on file with AcuFocus.
- TGI 2011. http://kantarmedia-tgiie.com/client-section/republic-of-ireland-tgi-2011/. Accessed April 18, 2012.
- Green, Brent. Generational Reinvention, How Boomers Today are Changing Business, Marketing, Aging and the Future. Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse.com; 2010.