Get Ready for Back to School!
If your practice is like the majority, business is often slower during the summer months. However, as we head into September and everyone begins to settle back into their normal routines, one of the tasks on the "Back To School" list is eye examinations for the children. Some parents might be proactive and work them in before school starts; others, however, may wait until either the child notices that he/she can't see the board as well as they used to, or until the teacher notices a problem. Unfortunately, this will typically only identify potential myopes, or an increase in myopia; hyperopic children often have the accommodative ability to hide it. Only a comprehensive eye examination can reveal uncorrected hyperopia.
Make sure you are always prepared for the back to school period with a great selection of kids' frames. Establish a reputation in the community for being a "kid friendly" practice. Have an area specially allocated to children's eyewear; set up a play area where they can have fun. When a child feels comfortable somewhere, they are going to be more cooperative for their parents when they need to go there for their eye care needs. In addition, a parent is going to feel better about taking their child somewhere the child feels comfortable going.
Parents want sturdy and durable frames; kids want cool and fun colors! Select frames that offer the best of both worlds. Of course, memory metal frames are always a great choice, especially for boys. Manufacturers are also starting to produce scaled down models of adult styles so children can have glasses that match their Mom's or Dad's. If you are serious about being a pediatric practice, it is imperative to have a large selection of children's frames on a year round basis. This way, when parents are in your office at other times throughout the year, they observe your collection of pediatric eyewear, planting the seed for when their children need your services. Discuss the limitations of "dress" frames with parents and how one pair of glasses doesn't work for all activities. Have an assortment for sports frames on hand to recommend as supplemental pairs. Remember, opticians don't only have a professional responsibility to advise patients on how best to correct their vision, but also how best to protect their eyes.
Parents need to know what will happen if their child breaks their glasses. Be very clear about your warranty policies with regards to breakage; be upfront. I always try to respect the warranty policies of the frame manufacturers, informing parents that the frame is warrantied for manufacturer's defects only. However, if a parent comes in with their child's broken glasses from the little brother, or sister, bending the glasses in two, I will do my best to take care of the patient. In these circumstances, I advise the parent that typically this kind of breakage would not be covered under the warranty, but, as a courtesy, I will take care of it for them on this one occasion. By handling it in this way, we gain major points with the parents while at the same time making the limitations of the warranty very clear for the future. Because I don't abuse this with my reps, I feel confident that, on these rare occasions, the rep will stand behind the return for me. However, I am very careful not to abuse this. Most parents are realistic about what should, or should not, be covered by a warranty. Sometimes, simply offering a replacement frame at a discounted price will often resolve the situation in a mutually agreeable way; or simply replacing a part, not the entire frame. Your office manager /owner will obviously have their warranty policies to follow.
Obviously, polycarbonate, or Trivex, are the safest materials to use, especially for children. Most doctors are actually in the habit of incorporating this recommendation as part of the written prescription. Aside from this, if the patient needs a distance correction, transition lenses are the most practical way of providing sunglass protection for children. There are many mixed opinions on the use of AR treatments on children's eyewear; mine is equally as mixed, depending on the patient, and the parent's desires. For some children, an AR treatment can almost be more of a hinderance than a benefit, if they are always getting finger prints on their lenses. However, in a complex, high powered Rx, an AR treatment can definitely be a huge benefit. A conversation with the parents as to the pros and cons, following my evaluation of the Rx, usually aids in this decision.
Working with pediatric patients can be challenging, but fun if you make it. Seeing the excitement on their faces when they come in to pick up their completed eyewear is very rewarding. Children can be so expressive and honest about their feelings; you definitely know it when they love their new glasses.
If we start our pediatric patients on the road to a life of maintaining good eye health, they will hopefully continue this throughout their adult lives, and become life-long patients.