The prevalence of progressive myopia is on the rise, and so is the weight of peer-reviewed evidence regarding the long-term health risks that myopia poses. At the same time, practices are continuously under mounting financial pressure as the revenues generated by optical sales is progressively—mind the pun!—decreasing in the face of online and big-box retailers.
Naturally, this leads many practices to turn to optometric specializations to differentiate themselves, provide better patient care, and boost revenues. This often includes investing time and money into the skills and equipment required to provide cutting-edge myopia management. Usually, it also means purchasing a topographer for fitting ortho-k lenses and an optical biometer for assessing axial length. Regardless, the big question then becomes: “How in the world do I reach new patients?”
Obviously, the first place to start is with your existing patient base. Make sure that you speak to the parents of children with progressive myopia about their options and the importance of managing myopia to mitigate long-term eye health risks by slowing down its progression.
Always dig into the situation and ask the right questions so that you can present the best options in the best light.
Think Beyond the Obvious
“Who can benefit from this treatment?” should be at the forefront of your mind, particularly if you offer ortho-k. Don’t restrict yourself to discussing it with parents of myopic kids. Parents of athletes or athletes themselves (young and old) are great potential candidates for ortho-k. Think about it: Ortho-k means no more worrying about daytime contact lenses falling out in the middle of a competitive event. The more physical a sport is, the more of a concern interfering eye wear can be for an athlete, even if he or she doesn’t have progressive myopia.
Another great target for ortho-k are adults seeking an alternative to LASIK. Most people know about laser vision correction but aren’t aware that there are non-surgical alternatives. Anyone who expresses interest in refractive eye surgery is someone you should speak to about ortho-k as a non-invasive option when you discuss contraindications, side effects and potential complications associated with LASIK, such as dry eye and halos. This audience will also be less likely than typical contact lens patients to balk at the cost of ortho-k.
Think Beyond Your Existing Patient Pool
The real trick to growing your myopia management practice is to think beyond your existing patient pool. This boils down to two crucial areas of focus:
- Online, using a solid content strategy to draw in and engage local relevant Google searches, and;
- Building a referral network
Let’s jump into the online realm. Simply stating on your website that you fit ortho-k or provide myopia management is not going to do much to bring in new patients. Your content strategy needs to match what people are actually searching for. People don’t Google “ortho-k” or “myopia management” unless they are already familiar with these terms, or are themselves a practitioner. And even if they make an informed search for those terms, it’s the detailed, authoritative content that will perform well in search results.
Vary Your Online Content for Different Audiences
Mirroring what we’ve mentioned above: a progressive myopia patient’s concerned parent, an athlete hoping to avoid daytime contacts or glasses, and a patient interested in LASIK alternatives would likely use very different keywords in an online search. Yet they would all be good candidates for ortho-k. Vary your online content with enough breadth to capture as broad a range of relevant topics related to your services as possible.
Think about how your patients ask about symptoms and treatment options. What phrases are they likely to use to find answers? In 2019, Google searches reflect natural speech more than ever before, so, craft content that matches those questions and concerns, combined with local terms like your city or neighborhood. That will turn these Google searches into website visitors, and then bring those visitors from your website into your lanes.
Referrals, Referrals, Referrals
As important as a robust online presence is, referrals from other professionals can be even more beneficial. Do you have a specific surgeon that you refer patients to for cataract surgery? Or corneal cross-linking? Well, some reciprocity is due! If they feel that a patient would benefit more from ortho-k than surgery, you should be in the back of their minds as the place to send patients. Not everyone specializes in myopia management, let alone ortho-k. Give him or her a call and ask to meet for lunch to discuss. It could lead to a steady stream of high-revenue referrals.
And don’t stop there. Own your expertise and introduce yourself to as many relevant practices and professionals in the broader area around your office, maybe with a beautiful brochure or write-up that you can leave with them. In particular, ODs working at many corporate practices mainly perform refractive exams. Drop by and see if they’re willing to send patients who need myopia management your way—just promise not to take away their general patients. You can even get creative by reaching out to local coaches and leagues to talk about ortho-k for athletes. The point is that the more you reach out and present yourself as a local provider and expert, the more referral sources you can nurture, generating a thriving myopia management/ortho-k practice.
Zvi Pardes is the Head of content marketing at EyeCarePro, which provides ECPs with educational content that helps them advance their practices through technology, management strategies, and digital marketing. EyeCarePro serves both industry and practices and is the only company of its kind solely focused on the optometric space.