Most healthcare professionals see the Internet as a source of misinformation and/or disinformation for patients seeking answers to their medical needs. However, for opticians and optometrists trying to meet the increasingly specialized visual needs of sports enthusiasts visiting their dispensaries, the World Wide Web may provide some keys to success. Many ECPs have been forced to turn there to learn about the latest in spectacle lens products and treatments for sports ranging from hunting and fishing to skiing and snowboarding. (See the feature on page 8 of this issue to learn more about the latest in sports eyewear.)
“Most of the knowledge we have in lenses for sports comes from self-education and experience,” explains Gina Kay, optician and co-manager of the Toronto location of Cristall Opticians, a three-location, family-owned optical shop. “In many cases, the patients are so well-educated about their sports and the vision needs related to them that they teach us a lot.”
Where to go for vital information on this application for spectacle lenses has long been the question. ECPs estimate that as much as 10 per cent of the lenses they dispense are used by wearers for a sports-related activity, most commonly hunting and fishing, although a growing number of patients participate in so-called “action” sports, including snowboarding, biking and racing (both running and auto/motorbike). Despite this, education programs are often lacking in curriculum devoted to sports lenses.
If you’re wondering what lenses and/or lens treatments will work for the sports enthusiasts in your client base, there are places to go before getting lost on Google.
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The proliferation of sports specialty magazines in response to the increased consumer interest in outdoor activities can help opticians and optometrists as well. According to Kay, many of these magazines publish feature articles that describe the “visual environments” specific sports participants experience; some include advice columns on eyewear needs. Many of these publications are online now, with searchable article archives. Sport-specific online chat rooms and web sites are also excellent resources.
Erin Clarke, an optician at Aurora Eye Care in Grande Prairie, AB and an active outdoor sports enthusiast, says local sporting goods retailers have been an excellent source of information on different sports for Aurora’s optical staff. “They can explain some of the visual conditions and challenges with different sports because they deal with them all the time,” she says.
Vendors who manufacture sport-specific products often provide plano sunwear or other eyewear for their respective customer bases. Kay says Cristall has partnered with a company that specializes in gear for motorcyclists to market prescription sunwear designed for optimal vision on the road. Clarke adds that she and her team at Aurora have researched the best prescription lens inserts for ski goggles and other sports specialty eyewear products to ensure the dispensary and its supplier partners offer them.
It may seem clichéd, but a thorough patient/client history makes identifying the right lens products easier. According to Kay, “asking the right questions and communicating with your clients allows them to tell you in their own words what they need.” While she emphasizes that they won’t necessarily tell you what lens tint will help them see better in the woods while hunting, they may describe visual problems they’ve had.
“Then it’s up to you, with your expertise and the resources you have – your supplier partners, for example – and maybe a little trial and error, to find the right products for them. Ultimately, the best way to make sure you are providing the best lens options for sports enthusiasts is combining your knowledge of lens tints and lens design technology with your clients’ knowledge of what they do. With all the technology we have now, there are lenses that will work for what they need. As opticians, we need to position ourselves as the experts who will help to find them.”