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Contact Lenses Part #1: The Problem with Contacts

So I was helping my mom shop for a new computer a few days ago. To begin, I went online and looked at all review websites breaking down each and every variation of all the machines I could ever consider. They had pages and pages of every possible detail I could imagine. When I selected the few that had the ideal specifications that were just right for my mom, I then went to the online stores. I read all the user reviews to know what other people thought. After hours of research, I had a computer I knew would work just right.

Jump to a conversation I had today and every day with my new contact lens patients. “Are you happy with your lenses? Have you ever wanted to try a different lens? If you could pick any contact lens you wanted to try, which would it be?” If you are like almost all of my patients, that last question is a difficult one to answer.

Is there any device we interact with more and that we know less about? The computers we use, the phones we carry, and the cars we drive are important devices that we spend hours, days, or weeks deciding on which is just the right fit for us. Yet, we use those devices a fraction of the time we use our contact lenses or glasses. Could we see the world around as clearly if we didn’t have a smartphone? Certainly, but could we would our new television be as useful if we couldn’t see it clearly? The answer is no.

However, this unawareness about contact lenses (and glasses for that matter) is not your fault. Contacts and glasses are medical devices that must be prescribed by a doctor, and doctors are terrible marketers. I went to 8 years of school to be able to manage the vision and eye health for my patients. I spent exactly zero minutes in a marketing class. We have a hard enough time trying to let people know the differences between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist (that’s a blog post in it’s own right), much less informing the population-at-large of which contact lens is the perfect fit for them.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Do you know the number one fear or most optometrists? It’s that our patients will see us as a salesman or saleswoman. You see, we operate in a delicate balance, because in no other medical field is the transaction of products rather than services so great. A great number of our patient encounters end with somebody buying contacts or glasses. If a patient thinks we are selling them, then our credibility is called into question and credibility is everything we have to stand on. Without it, we are of no use.

Like the hippocratic oath, there is an optometry oath. In that oath, contains the lines “I will advise my patients fully and honestly of all which may serve to restore, maintain or enhance their vision and general health” and “ I will place the treatment of those who seek my care above personal gain.” I’m proud to say that I work at a place that upholds that oath. A place where I know in my heart, that patient care is held to the highest standard. There are frequently nights were I am kept up worrying about my patients, but I don’t have to worry that our business is doing anything sketchy or makes me uncomfortable. I value that and I know our patients do too.

So let’s work together to find the best contact lens for you. I frequently tell me patient’s that “you are you’re own best doctor.” I only see you for about 30 minutes, one day of the year. You know much more about the world you interact with than I could ever know. You know which factors of a contact lens are more important to you than others.

In part 2 of this blog post on contact lenses, I will try to give you the information to empower you to make an informed decision about your contact lenses. I think an informed patient and a little guidance from our doctors will make a powerful healthcare team.

Jesse Kahnk, O.D.