By Johnna Dukes, ABOC

The optical world moves quickly. Patient interactions can be fleeting, and often there are many separate interactions in the span of one day. How can you make the most of your time to help your patient choose products that will have the greatest impact on their daily needs? It seems simple, but asking in-depth questions will make all the difference. And when you communicate that the “one-size-fits-all” clothing doesn’t really fit everyone, dispensing with a “one-size-fits-all” approach couldn’t possibly meet everyone’s needs either.

During the consultation process, it is important to understand your patient’s needs, wants and problem areas. Asking open-ended questions will ensure that your patient leaves your office as a raving fan.

Often, we are quick to put that presbyopic patient in progressive addition lenses (PALs). But without further information, the patient will believe it will take care of all of their visual issues, which leads to the patient wondering if their glasses are defective when that one pair doesn’t in fact actually solve ALL of their visual problems.

Taking the time to pinpoint where a PAL will work well, but also identifying that a traditional PAL might not meet all their visual needs gives you an opportunity to become your patient’s trusted advisor, someone who took the time to understand their individual needs and craft a solution that’s geared to their everyday life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love PALs and recommend them as a first-pair solution. However, as a dispenser, I know there are visual needs that are better served by a task-specific lens. I am happy to explain to my patient that PALs are great for a lot of things, but they are not a “one-size-fits-all” fix for all visual issues.

So, which questions are most impactful? Start with assessing the current level of satisfaction your patient has with their usual lenses. Are they working well? What do they wish could be better? Are they struggling with certain tasks? Then get more details on how they use their eyes. What are their hobbies and work needs? How much computer work do they do, and what type of device do they use? Are they struggling with their PALs when they golf? How about their experience with computer work, especially for those using more than one screen or those who spend their days on video calls? How about those who belong to a card club or those who spend hours doing needle point or quilting? For those who spend a lot of time driving whether that be a school bus, long haul trucker or a sales rep—how are their traditional PALs working for those tasks?

Gathering this information can give you a treasure trove of information.

Finding out what your patient’s visual needs are gives you the ability to recommend products that are made specifically for these tasks. Keep in mind that your patient comes to you looking for solutions, so even if they don’t follow your recommendations, at least you have taken the time to educate them that these solutions exist and would be appropriate for them.

Small environment lens designs, also known as computer or “office” lens designs, are plentiful these days. But there are many visual tasks that a patient would benefit from by wearing these lenses. These include heavy computer use especially those using multiple screens, video calls, reading sheet music, playing cards or doing needle point or quilting. Of course, you need to explain that these products provide task-specific solutions and are not to be used for driving, just as you use your golf shoes only for golfing.

Most of these products allow the dispenser to select the range of intermediate and to further customize the patient’s experience based on their input. For example, Hoya has three range options for their iD lens series. iD Space gives the most range for someone who still needs to see across a small room (such as someone in a board meeting room). iD Screen allows for intermediate range out to just beyond a computer screen and is ideal for someone who might need to see a client across a table, as well as their computer screen or perhaps for someone playing cards. iD Zoom is designed to accommodate those who need very little intermediate range but whose needs are closer in, such as those who spend a good deal of time on a laptop or even those who spend their time doing needlepoint or quilting.

Taking it farther than just intermediate needs, tailored solutions also exist for golfers, runners and cyclists. Some designs I recommend to patients are Shamir’s Attitude III Sport and IOT’s Endless Sport Progressive. For those doing a lot of driving, Zeiss DriveSafe and IOT’s Endless Drive Lens are some great options. IOT has even created a lens specific for pilots, the Endless Pilot Progressive.

Don’t forget about sun protection. Sun lens options are plentiful. Knowing which outdoor activities your patient is likely to participate in will help guide your recommendations for their sun lens options. Keep in mind that a patient who uses their sunglasses for driving will have different needs than someone who wears them for fashion or sports. Sometimes it’s advantageous for a patient to have more than one pair of sunglasses in order to meet those needs. A case in point: Do you, the dispenser, have more than one pair of sunglasses? I sure do! Don’t your patients deserve to be offered that opportunity?

Drawing the comparisons between the performance of different sun solutions can truly allow you the opportunity to make recommendations to your patient that impact how comfortably they use their eyes. Utilizing a customized approach instead of a one-size-fits-all solution can make the difference between a patient leaving your office marginally happy versus being incredibly happy.

Johnna Dukes is a board-certified optician, ABO approved speaker and president of the Opticians Association of America.