If you think you’re doing a good job prescribing or dispensing anti-reflective lenses to your patients, it may be time for a reality check. Although almost all patients can benefit from the optical and cosmetic properties of AR lenses, most are not getting that message from their doctor or dispenser.

AR lenses accounted for 20.4 percent of all lenses sold in the U.S. for the 12 months ending September 2005, an amount roughly flat with the previous year, according to VisionWatch, a consumer survey conducted by Jobson Optical Research and the Vision Council of America. That means roughly four out of five eyeglass wearers are not wearing AR lenses.

Yet the VisionWatch data indicates consumer interest in “anti-glare” lenses is high. However, many consumers who were surveyed said they were unaware such lenses were available because their eyecare professional did not present it as an option. If the AR option was presented by the ECP, the consumers said they either didn’t understand the benefits of the lenses or else the ECP presented it near the end of a list of available lens options. In other words, the high-performance message was lost.

The good news is when these consumers were asked by VisionWatch if they would purchase AR lenses if offered the opportunity, 56.7 percent said “yes.”

Why are so many eyecare professionals ineffective when it comes to presenting AR lenses to patients? An analysis of data compiled by Essilor of America found almost all ECPs sell some amount of AR. However, approximately 15 percent still sell less than 10 percent AR in their practices. Among those ECPs selling more AR, their perception, at 30 percent of the amount sold, is higher than reality. The main reasons ECPs said they are not recommending AR lenses is it either “takes too much time” or else they need “reminders.”

The Right Product at the Right Time
If you haven’t been keeping up with the latest developments in AR, now is a good time to do it. Anti-reflective technology is no longer a single wavelength coating, prone to crazing and scratching and capable only of limited performance. Anti-reflective lenses today have spectacular performance and durability. Better yet, you can prescribe anti-reflective from a wide range of products and price points.
Let’s take a quick look at the advantages your patients may be missing:
• Every prescription performs better with anti-reflective lenses.
• Every lens material, from 1.49 to 1.70 and beyond, performs better in anti-reflective form.
• Light useful for vision is enhanced by anti-reflective technology.
• Useless light, which is distracting and tiring, is eliminated by anti-reflective lenses.
• Night driving problems are reduced by anti-reflective lenses.
• Anti-reflective lenses improve sports vision, important for participants and spectators alike.
• Appearance is enhanced because anti-reflective technology makes lenses less visible.
• Patients are enthused because anti-reflective lenses truly make a patient-perceptible difference in appearance and performance.

Although today’s anti-reflective lenses reduce useless reflected light over a range of wavelengths, the light reflected has a residual color. If you and your patient want anti-reflective lenses that “show” they are special, pick one that has a greenish appearance. If you want the anti-reflective that enhances a patient’s frame or complexion, you may want to pick a gold-tone anti-reflective. For a less visible anti-reflective, consider one with a more blue appearance.

Smudge Resistance
Oleophobic (grease resisting) anti-reflective lenses are easier to clean. This is an important issue because smudges are more visible on today’s extremely clear anti-reflective lenses. Some of the easy-to-clean technologies actually have a smoother, slicker feel than the “sticky-feel” of other anti-reflective lenses

Dust Particles
Static electricity on the surface of newly cleaned lenses causes light scatter, impedes vision and often leads patients to “dry wipe,” which leads to surface scratches. Anti-reflective lenses are available in anti-static form that reduces dust particle build-up. Careless patients and those who work in dusty environments especially need anti-stat properties.

Scratch and Craze Resistance
Manufacturers have become especially sensitive to durability. No one wants a lens that will decrease in performance and look old before its time. Patients will complain that a scratched and crazed lens is worse than wearing a high reflectance lens, and they’re right. Anti-reflective lenses are now available that are guaranteed for the life of the prescription—and manufacturers have the technology to make the lenses do just that. If durability is your concern, use these fine lenses. You and your patients will be delighted with their performance.

Anti-reflective lenses, just like ordinary lenses, are available at a variety of price points. The decision should first be made for the anti-reflective advantage—then help your patient pick the price point that suits them. Since refractive error tends to change significantly over about a thousand days (i.e. about every two to three years), the average patient must change eyewear about that often. The cost of an additional $50 to $150 over that period then amounts to just five to 15 cents a day over the life of the prescription. Just move the decimal point three places to the left to estimate the per-day cost.

How Do Your Patients Measure Up?
If you’re interested in increasing your AR lens sales, it’s important to have an accurate idea of how much product you’re currently selling. If you don’t have your own percentages at your fingertips, call your lab’s rep. You can bet he or she can tell you how your patients really measure up. If they are at or below the 20.4 percent national average, you need to address the issue of anti-reflective lenses. Could the problem be they don’t know what they’re missing? If so, the solution is simple. You and your staff need to tell each and every patient about the benefits of high performance, anti-reflective lenses. LT

-Palmer R. Cook, OD
is director of education for Diversified Ophthalmics in Cincinnati.