Over the past 50 years, optometry experienced some mile-stone inventions, which had a major impact on the product and service we are able to offer patients. These mile-stones all allowed new markets to emerge. There were the first bifocal designs namely, the One Piece, the Excecutive and the Univis D, now known as the Flattop. Then came the first multi focal design by Essilor, the Varilux. Although first launched in 1959, it was the Varilux 2, that first made its appearance in South Africa in the early seventies. The photochromic lens had a dramatic effect on revenue streams, as did the advent of the UV coating. Also worth a mention was the arrival of CR39 lenses which along with the benefits of safety and weight, afforded optometrists the opportunity to do in-house coating.
On the contact lens front, it was the arrival of the first disposable lens, Acuvue by Johnson and Johnson, launched in the late eighties, that turned the contact lens business on its head. In more recent times, gas permeable materials brought the scleral lens back and has opened a significant new market, offering great visual outcomes to many who had no hope previously.
Digital devices have dramatically changed the way we use our eyes. The conventional working distance used to be forty centimeters, but who, ever holds a cell phone there? The introduction of all these digital devices has placed undue demands on our accommodative systems. It has therefore become necessary for optometrists to align their prescription writing to the modern demands faced by patients.
Enter the single vision lens that offers accommodative relief at near. This surely opens up a new market, that can boost the revenue stream for optometrists. Hoya has launched the Sync III lens, which has the distance power for every-day use and a “boost zone” at the bottom of the lens. Similarly, Zeiss has the Zeiss Digital.
There are three components that will constitute this new market. In the first place, asthenopia. We have been taken hostage by digital technology, which has come with unprecedented demands on the visual system. This has become a fact of life and the result is an increase in asthenopia associated with the use of digital devices.
In the second place, leading spectacle lens manufacturers have launched advanced lens designs, which can offer relief to this new eye strain challenge. But we still won’t bear the fruits of a new market until in the third instance, the optometrist joins the party. As much as we have a financial interest in a potential market to develop, we also have a professional duty to provide our patients with the best advice and eye care products. This new market won’t just happen, there has to be a plan, which involves understanding the signs and symptoms of digital eye strain, as well as having in-depth knowledge of the lenses in terms of design and proposed benefits.
The greatest motivator to prescribe a particular multi focal lens, contact lens or coating, must be the feedback whether it actually worked and the fact that your patient is happy with the outcome. To this end, it would be important to follow up and get feedback about these “digital relief” lenses. Developing a database that will assist in the better understanding of this new visual challenge will help grow the confidence, as to when and how to prescribe these lenses. This is how we will develop a new market.