Products and services that emphasize health and wellness drive practice growth
When Suzanne Offen, OD FCOVD, of Westfield, New Jersey, makes a recommendation to a patient for a homeopathic product such as Natural Ophthalmics’ Ortho-K Thin eye drops, she does so “with a lot of confidence,” she says. She’s had more than a decade of experience recommending homeopathic options to patients. Natural eye care and wellness are important topics to her and her patients. On her website and practice Facebook page, she posts regularly about nutrition, wellness and healthy eyes for the whole family.
“I consider myself a primary care optometrist. We do a lot of basic care for patients,” she says. She sees infants to adults and refers them out for care as needed. Her practice, which she started in 1987, has been pulling patients in by word-of-mouth recommendations for years.
Her interest in setting the practice apart by providing differentiated products and services has helped her growth. Natural eye care is one such area. More than 85 percent of Americans use natural supplements for wellness, and more than 50 percent use these products for treating health conditions, according to a survey conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health.
Natural Ophthalmics has a wide product range, available in eye drops or pellets, for tear stimulation, allergies and cataracts, for example. “I’ve been using these products in my practice for about 10 to 15 years,” she says. Offering homeopathic products has also set her practice apart, she says. “I’m one of the few doctors who does work in orthokeratology, and I do a lot of contact lenses,” she says. “I used homeopathic products before a lot of other people did. I’m a believer in homeopathy. I find it to be very helpful for patients, and the products are less expensive, too, than prescription medications.”
Her recommendation of homeopathic products and natural eye care is complementary to her high-tech, high-touch practice. For example, it’s a key element of her growing orthokeratology practice. Many parents in her area are interested in orthokeratology to slow down the rate of myopia progression for their children. To ensure that her patients are comfortable, which she says increases compliance with the regimen, her practice packages the two formulations of Natural Ophthalmics Ortho-K eye drops. The thick drop is used just prior to inserting the lenses for the night, and one drop can be added once the lens has been inserted. It helps keep the eyes and eyelid feeling smooth overnight. The thin drops are used upon waking to make it easier to remove the ortho-k lenses. The thin formula can also be used during the day as a lubricant. These are the only products she recommends for her orthokeratology patients. “Since I’ve been using them, I haven’t had patients have any issues with their lenses,” she says. “That’s something to brag about. They’ve worked out really well.”
She says that the soothing aspect of the thin drops helps provide a smooth corneal surface, which patients notice. In fact, she recommends the Ortho-K Thin drops for any contact lens wearer who is struggling with comfort issues. “Dry eye is the main reason why some people stop wearing contact lenses. There are so many causes for dry eye, and there can be different issues with the three separate layers of the tear film,” she says. Her dry eye practice features LipiFlow for more advanced cases of evaporative dry eye disease, but she routinely starts patients with a recommendation to use the Ortho-K Thin drops. “Many patients don’t realize that they have dry eye until they have started on a dry eye regimen and feel the relief. I personally use Ortho-K Thin drops, which I think are the greatest drops for contact lens wearers.”
Incorporating recommendations for natural eye care and wellness products is easy. There are no contraindications for these drops, so they can be an appropriate first-line treatment option for many patients, she says.