Patients want solutions, but eye care providers aren’t being proactive enough
Eye care professionals: are you missing opportunities to help people suffering from screen-related eye strain? Studies say yes. At Vision Expo West 2017, we learned about a new study that highlighted a gap in eye care. Most U.S. consumers are very concerned about eye strain related to the use of digital devices. However, eye care providers aren’t addressing the issue enough. Why not, and what can be done about it?
Patients want to talk about screen-related eye issues
Here’s an eye-opening statistic: the average American adult spends more than 11 hours per day on electronic gadgets, according to a 2015 Nielsen report. And all that time spent staring at computers, tablets, and smartphones takes a toll on our eyes.
64 percent of contact lens wearers and 60 percent of glasses wearers want to talk to an ECP about eye strain, but only six percent have.
The study, commissioned by CooperVision, found that 64 percent of contact lens wearers and 60 percent of glasses wearers reported that they would be very interested or somewhat interested in exploring ways to reduce eye strain with an eye care professional (ECP). The problem? Only six percent of those surveyed had actually talked to an ECP about this issue.
Why aren’t we talking about patients’ screen-related eye concerns? It could be that ECPs aren’t asking the right questions or listening for the right answers.
Top words used to describe eye strain
The CooperVision study identified terms used by consumers to describe how their eyes feel after spending long periods of time staring at screens. The top three words were: “tired” (60 percent), “dry” (18 percent), and “blurry” (17 percent). As an ECP, this is good to know. If you’re using words like “cloudy” or “irritated,” you may be missing the chance to connect with patients.
Another way to spark conversation is by showing relevant patient education videos in your waiting room, such as Healthy Daily Habits for Computer Users:
For more on this topic, see Healthy Eye Tips for Screen Users
Helping contact lens wearers
Contact lens wearers in particular are an underserved market. It should come as no surprise that in the CooperVision study this group was the most interested in talking to an ECP about reducing screen-related eye strain. After all, “the majority of the available contact lenses are not designed for how patients are using their eyes. Specifically, older-generation materials and designs feature technology that isn’t optimized for how we stare at multiple digital devices for nearly all of our waking hours,” wrote Justin Bazan, O.D., in the Optometry Times.
“Optometrists should be proactive in offering their patients solutions to digital device-induced dryness.”
We know that blink rates are dramatically reduced in screen users, which has led to symptoms of dry eye disease in previously unaffected populations such as teens and schoolchildren. “This reduction in blinking has led to contact lens-related dryness for patients who have likely upgraded their smartphones but not their contact lenses. Optometrists should be proactive in offering their patients solutions to digital device-induced dryness,” wrote Bazan.
He advises ODs to ask better questions. Instead of, “How are you doing with your contact lenses?” he asks, “How dry are your lenses feeling around 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night?” Bazan also suggests upgrading patients to new technology lenses such as Acuvue Vita (Johnson & Johnson Vision Care), Biofinity Energys (CooperVision), and Biotrue ONEday (Bausch + Lomb).
Given that approximately 41 million U.S. adults and more than 3 million adolescents wear contact lenses, this is a patient population you can’t afford to ignore.
For more on this topic, see Helping Non-Adherent Patients Find Success with Contact Lenses
Just as technology continues to change and improve, so should eye care. Being proactive in your patient education, embracing new technology in your practice, and continually looking to add more value is the best way to keep patients coming back.