April 1, 2020
By Alan N. Glazier, OD, FAAO
Myopia is a common ocular disorder. Once viewed as a benign refractive condition, myopia even at low levels is associated with increased risk for numerous ocular diseases, such as retinal detachment, myopic macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. The norm of simply prescribing single vision spectacles and contact lenses for the sole purpose of providing clear distance vision is rapidly changing. The new practice paradigm is to slow or stop the progression of pediatric myopia.
Once an eye care professional (ECP) has implemented a myopia management system in their practice it is critical to educate parents and other stakeholders. Most parents of myopic children have no idea the standard has shifted, so success depends on marketing the specialty.
Taking to parents
Genetics is known to affect a child’s refractive status. For example, children with two myopic parents are six times more likely to become myopic themselves than children with one or no myopic parents. Parents with myopia expect their child’s vision to change at each exam because that is what they experienced. It’s up to us to explain that the corrective paradigm has shifted and we can now prescribe to limit their child’s changing vision. Introducing myopia management to parents is the most challenging part, because it involves changing perceptions, and myopia management comes at a higher expense. Be sure to transfer your knowledge in layman’s terms and have resources for them to review at home.
An incredibly useful in-office tool is the Brien Holden Vision Institute Myopia Calculator, which helps ECPs, patients and parents apply research-based evidence for various management options. It lets the ECP demonstrate and discuss “risk versus benefit” for individual cases.
I also discuss childhood lifestyle concerns. Modifications in lifestyle, such as spending at least 120 minutes outdoors per day and spending less time doing near-work activities, can be effective in reducing myopia genesis.
Every ECP should create myopia management materials in the same way they would for any service or product offered. This includes pamphlets and folders. Marketing a product or service effectively requires the patient to have several exposures to the information, and taking home a pamphlet or information folders ensures they will be exposed to myopia management beyond your initial introduction. In our office, we have a preprinted folder with contact information and two articles: one on the safety and efficacy of myopia management and another with basic information on accepted treatments and the importance of slowing myopia’s progression.
Your entire staff must be educated on myopia, especially the front desk staff. It’s critical that they be able to answer basic questions, and it’s important to keep them up to date on new developments in myopia management. If patients hear about myopia management from the front desk and technicians and have services emphasized by the doctor, they will be better prepared when faced with a decision on whether to proceed. We bring our message to community events and health fairs, and we introduce it to school nurses. We ask parents what organizations they are involved in and if they would be interested in having us speak. We support nonprofits and include something about myopia management when advertising in their booklets.
It’s critical to create content about myopia management and post on your social media platforms. People search Google for information on myopia so you need to be on the first page of their web search. If myopia information is not on your website parents are likely to find the services they seek elsewhere. Create content with words and phrases people use to search for the products and services, such as, “How do I stop my child’s changing vision?” because Google will pull your information up for the parents’ query based on how well the content you created matches the search term they use. In 2010 I wrote a book called “search marketing.” In it I included “Glazier’s Rule.” It states, “You can never create too much content online as long as the content you create provides more value to the end-user than yourself.” This content will raise your profile on Google and get you “found” for your myopia services. I have also created a patient-facing website, MyopiaInstitute.com, with a doctor listing that can help elevate you in Google for myopia and orthokeratology.
Pricing and Value Proposition
It’s essential to structure fees in a way that maintains profitability and reflects the value and uniqueness of the service. You should consider pricing different methods similarly, so you don’t choose one method over the other based on profit and so parents’ decisions will not be based on the price differential.
You can learn the latest about myopia management by regularly reading Review of Myopia Management and by attending myopia lectures at major optometric CE meetings. The myopia management space is rapidly changing, so it’s essential to keep up to date to ensure you are always offering your patients state-of-the-art care.
I also suggest you write a short description introducing this specialty and send it out via your patient communication software. Recreate the design of this promotional piece quarterly to continue exposing the patient base to the information.
Here are things you can do immediately: subscribe to Review of Myopia Management to further educate yourself about the latest developments in myopia management, subscribe to the Myopia Institute, insert myopia management information on your Google business page and talk about myopia with every concerned parent, reiterating it through different staff members and asking parents to tell their family and friends.
Remember, the science behind myopia management is evolving, but practice implementation is not rocket science. It is your professional responsibility to manage juvenile-onset progressive myopes. Take the time to learn about myopia treatments and offer them to your pediatric patients. No one is better positioned to provide this care than you.
Myopia is not a benign condition. Optometrists play a critical role in managing myopia to prevent children from progressing to high myopia later in life. With several treatment options now available that have demonstrated efficacy, optometrists have a professional responsibility to discuss myopia management options with parents of children at risk for progressive myopia.
Alan Glazier, OD, FAAO, is the founder of Shady Grove Eye & Vision Care based in Rockville, MD., and the founder and visionary behind ODs on Facebook and ODsOnFB.com.