By Ariel Cerenzie, OD
Vision Source Studio 20/20, Charlotte, N.C
As eye care professionals, we recognize the life-changing importance of myopia management. We marvel at the science of manipulating intraocular optics to slow axial elongation, and we appreciate the diverse therapy strategies to fit various lifestyles.
After a child’s need for myopia management is identified, an effective conversation educating parents on the importance of intervention should take place, and a return visit to begin therapy should be scheduled. Unfortunately, families often leave the office with little more than concern, confusion and a new eyewear prescription.
The optometric community must recognize that an encounter with a child requiring myopia management has the potential to influence not only the child and his or her parents but also that network of family and friends. As such, the existence of a myopia subspecialty within a primary care practice is vital. What follows is a step-by-step guide to establishing one.
Sell Parents on Myopia Management
Look at your schedule for the day. What percentage of today’s patients are progressive myopes? How many of those myopic patients are young children or parents of young children? If you are dedicated to growing your myopia management subspecialty, these patients are key. It is crucial to teach them the importance of myopia management.
“But I’m a doctor, not a salesperson,” you might be telling yourself. Well, the definition of selling is to cause someone to become enthusiastic about a product or idea. To convert patients to a myopia management strategy, it is essential to communicate the message in a meaningful way effectively.
The first thing to do is customize your delivery. It is important to understand the child’s unique circumstances and use that information to tailor the conversation with the parents. This delivery will result in a heightened sense of the child’s specific risk factors, motivation to seek a solution and excitement that there is an option unique to the child’s needs.
Pull up the Brien Holden Myopia Institute Calculator. Input the child’s age, ethnicity and prescription. Show the parents the projection of how myopic their child will be by the age of 17 without myopia management. Next, show the increased risk of developing ocular diseases associated with the magnitude of myopia expected at age 17. This type of delivery will have them asking, “What can we do, doc? How can we prevent this from happening?”
Now, it is important to understand how exactly the parents communicate. Are they driven by emotion or by hard facts? If the parents appear to respond better to data and science, make sure to have material prepared for them that will resonate, such as recent studies and articles on the efficacy of myopia management. If, on the other hand, the parents respond more to imagery, communicate with photos of what glaucoma, myopic macular degeneration and retinal detachments look like compared to the unaffected eye, as well as the quality of vision that results from these conditions. To make an impact, you need to speak the parents’ language.
Unleash the Power of Marketing
After selling myopia management to your current patients, you should begin outreach to prospective patients. The biggest challenge for many marketing initiatives is effectively reaching the appropriate target audience. While we have the unique opportunity to market to our target audience directly, that is not enough. For our myopia management subspecialty to really grow, we must find methods to encourage the patients we have undergoing myopia management to market for us.
That brings us to the most effective and powerful method of marketing: word of mouth. For follow-up visits with patients undergoing myopia management, we should aim to supply the parents and the child with marketing material to convey the benefits to family and friends.
According to marketing guru Jonah Berger, author of a marketing book titled Contagious, ideas worth spreading have one or more defining elements. Let’s go through some of the critical aspects with an example of a child, Sarah, who was prescribed orthokeratology.
|Principle of “Contagiousness”||Description||Example|
|Social Currency||Does knowledge of your service make people feel like insiders?||As a doctor invested in myopia management, you belong to a smaller percentage of doctors who offer this specialty service. Sarah and her parents will want to tell others about the special, unique care they receive at your office.|
|Triggers||Are people exposed to certain outside triggers that remind them of your service?||“Sarah, are you enjoying playing soccer without your glasses?”
To the parents: “Do a lot of kids on Sarah’s swim team wear glasses?”
|Practical Value||Does talking about your service help others?||Sarah’s parents understand the value of slowing myopia progression and will want to spread the word to others in need.|
|Public||Can people see that others are using your service?||Your office could design an attractive T-shirt or bag for myopia management patients to attract the attention of family and friends.|
|Emotion||Does talking about your services generate emotion?||“Investing in Sarah’s eyes means that you are doing everything in your power to maximize the ocular health and vision of your child.”|
Think of ways to genuinely communicate one or a few of these critical elements to make your patients want to tell others about myopia management.
Another effective outreach tool is external marketing. Consider commissioning a survey within a five-mile radius of your practice’s location. Some resources help determine not only the demographics of surrounding neighborhoods but also the preferred channels each of the subgroups best responds to, whether through direct mail, online or radio ads. Our practice utilized a free geospatial survey analysis through our private practice network, Vision Source. It may cost money to produce and disseminate marketing material, but the resulting referrals can be worth it.
Stay Committed and Patient
It will take time to build a myopia management subspecialty. Remember that each patient presents an opportunity to expand your growth efforts as that patient leaves your exam room and goes out into the world. Through mindful communication with these patients and diverse marketing initiatives, the benefits of myopia management can be spread far and wide.