Combatting UPP at the source

July 25, 2015

In her latest blog, Joy Gibb, ABOC, writes how ophthalmologists can fight UPP at the source-your patients.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuringcontributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Joy Gibb, ABOC, an optician at Daynes Eye and Lasik in Bountiful, UT. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of  Ophthalmology Times or UBM Advanstar.

 

You may have recently heard in the news about the unilateral pricing policy (UPP) of several contact lens manufacturers being deemed unfair to consumers and the state of Utah passing legislation to ban it.

 Utah is my home state, and I have had the opportunity to hear from and talk with a legislator who felt he had been educated on the situation.  I’d like to share some of the concerns and perceptions he had because I think they are very similar to the concerns and perceptions of many of our patients/customers.

The eye care industry for years has had blurred lines about whether we are medical or retail. 

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The truth is, we are both. 

They buy product in retail environments to solve medical issues and problems.  My vantage point has always been that a person is a patient in the chair, but a customer in your dispensary.

 As eye care professionals, our primary focus is always doing what’s in the best interest of the patient and giving them recommendations for vision solutions that will not only improve their visual acuity, but also their lifestyle.

One of the senator’s primary concerns was that a contact lens brand was being dictated on a prescription, which didn’t allow for consumers to then purchase whichever contact lens they felt more comfortable with or had the biggest rebate or lowest expense. 

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We’ve all experienced the phone call from a patient while they are at a big box discount chain, or the retail chain wanting a new prescription written for a different brand of contact lens, because they’ve been told the new lens is cheaper or it will be eligible for a larger rebate.  The senator just didn’t understand why that was such a big deal to just get a prescription filled for any contact lens.   

 

Photo credit:  ©Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

 

Next: Convincing politicians

 

I hoped to help him understand by drawing a comparison. I asked him if he went to an internist and was told he had high blood pressure what he would think if the doctor then handed him a list of thirty different blood pressure medications and told to pick whichever one he thought would be best.  I’m quite sure as a patient, that he would want to know which medication would be best for him and his situation; which medications may interfere with other health situations he had, possibly making them worse; and were there any risks or benefits based on his unique health and lifestyle profile from one medication over another. 

I also reminded him that the eye is an exposed organ with the risk of injury and infection.  The contact lens a doctor selects for their patient is based on more than simply price or popularity on a retail level.

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The discussion I had with the senator has prompted me to think, “How can we as eye care professionals do a better job of connecting with our patients so they understand the medical benefits of the products we recommend?”

I’ve worked with several doctors over my career and can tell you that when doctors make product specific recommendations to the patients during the exam, the patients become far more willing to be compliant with those recommendations and usually have a better experience with their vision because they have gotten what’s best for them, their conditions, and their lifestyles.

Might I suggest that the next time you are conducting a contact lens examination, you take an approach with the patient that will blend both medical and retail recommendations?  Do they know and understand why you are making the recommendations you do?

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Instead of simply handing them a prescription for contact lenses, there should be a discussion about why you are prescribing that particular contact lens.  During the exam you should reference your findings in conjunction with your recommendations.  “You mentioned today that your eyes have felt dry.  I’m prescribing this (name specific) contact lens for you because it has a material in its composition that will help alleviate some of those uncomfortable conditions you described and can be healthier for your long term visual health.”

There are several valid and important reasons we recommend certain products, whether they are contact lenses, eyewear, or pharmaceuticals.  We know the “why”, but do our patients? 

If you explain the “why,” it not only instills confidence in you as a medical professional, but also as a trusted guide in a myriad of products available to them in a retail setting.  You give them value in their purchase, and they will be more likely to be compliant with your recommendations.

Next: Combining medical reasoning with product recommendation

 

Patients look to doctors for their professional medical opinions and advice in making their life better.  They want to know how to retain the vision they have and restore vision that has been lost, and they want to do it in a way that’s healthy for their unique circumstances. 

When you combine medical reasoning with product recommendation for your patient, you are building a relationship of trust and loyalty.  

 

Further reading: Becoming a better listener for the sake of your patients