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New Contact Lens Institute research reveals untapped contact lens demand

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5 min read

Ahead of publishing a new consumer research report next month, the Contact Lens Institute (CLI) is previewing the findings from its latest on contact lens adoption this week at Vision Expo East.

To discuss the highlights of this new data, Glance President Jaclyn Garlich, OD, FAAO, spoke with Carla Mack, OD, MBA, FAAO, FBCLA, board chair at CLI.

Watch below.

Now, talk about this report.

As part of CLI’s See Tomorrow initiative of bi-annual contact lens custom research, this latest analysis was conducted via an online survey by Prodege, an online marketing, consumer polling, and market research company, between Feb. 1-9, 2024.

Respondents included 1,053 vision-corrected adults (aged 18 to 64) in the U.S.; of that number,  a sample size of 579 individuals included glasses wearers who had never worn contact lenses.

Let’s zero in on contact lens wear.

Per CLI, the data revealed “significant untapped contact lens demand.”

CLI Executive Director Stan Rogaski noted that “our research has consistently shown that vision-corrected adults are waiting for their doctors to raise the possibility of contact lens wear.”

Even further, Dr. Mack told Glance, “No one's recommending contact lenses to those patients; They're not asking about it, they're not talking about it … they’re not telling patients that they’re a candidate.”

Along with potential misinformation being given to patients, Dr. Mack also called out the “negative culture” surrounding contact lenses as a result of ECPs and their staff not bringing the option up to patients.

Note: See here for details on CLI’s previous consumer research on contact lens culture, released in October 2023.

Case in point?

The findings indicated that nearly 1 in 2 (47.8%) of glass wearers who had never tried contact lenses indicated a high interest in doing so.

However, respondents reported the percentage of in-office staff actually bringing up contact lens recommendations as being very low:

  • 10.5% of optometrists (ODs) or ophthalmologists (MDs)
  • 6% of exam staff
  • 3% of optical/eyewear display staff

So what does this report cover?

Per Rogaski, a deeper dive into not just the critical need for eye doctors to recommend contact lenses to their patients, but also the impact clinical office staff have in both encouraging and discouraging patients as an option for vision correction.

Exactly how influential can practice staff be?

Pretty influential, as evidenced by the 51% of glasses-wearing respondents who reported their lack of contact lens wear (even during a trial period) was “directly influenced by in-practice behaviors or lack thereof.”

Per CLI, examples of this lack of discussion discouraging patients from contact lens wear included never being:

  • Asked about contact lenses (20%)
  • Told of candidacy for lenses (19%)
  • Provided with lens information (18%)

So what factors influenced their lens decision?

Out of 25 options, the top five most influential included (in order of prominence):

  • An ECP explaining the benefits of lens wear (66%)
  • Understanding how to insert and remove lenses (52%)
  • Being given trial lenses during exam visit (51%)
  • Having a wider range of price/performance options (47%)
  • Awareness of lenses for specific eye conditions (46%)

Just how important is an ECP’s influence?

While it’s critical for office staff to communicate with patients about the benefits of contact lens wear, an ECP’s role is ultimately paramount.

“The whole practice makes a difference; you want to make sure everyone is on the same page and saying the same message to patients,” Dr. Mack said to Glance. “But by far, the biggest one is the doctor bringing up the positive attributes of contact lens wear.”

This could include mentioning the following, according to Dr. Mack:

  • Providing trial lenses in-office for patients to wear home
  • Adopting a positive attitude around contact lens wear
  • Offering various price options
  • Discussing proper insertion and removal of lenses

Where can I learn more about these findings?

If you’re attending Vision Expo East this weekend, the panel discussion Beyond Vision: Behaviors to Supercharge Your Contact Lens Business will be held on Saturday, March 16, from 11 am to 11:30 am EST on The Bridge main stage.

The discussion will include a moderated panel of ECPs who will share how they work with their own staff to implement and reinforce positive contact lens behaviors to attract new patients. Panelists include:

  • Andrew Bruce, LDO, ABOM, NCLEM, FCLSA (moderator)
  • Jason Compton, OD, FAAO
  • Sabrina Gaan, OD
  • Scott Moscow, OD
  • Adam Ramsey, OD

See here for more Vision Expo East coverage.

Vision Expo East is being held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, New York, from March 14-17, 2024.