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Enhancing the Dispensing Experience

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As much as new technologies are changing the eye exam experience for patients, they are having just as significant an impact on the dispensing process. Much of the recent innovation has involved sophisticated dispensing systems that take precise position-of-wear measurements, and, in some cases, additional biometric measurements, to guarantee an optimal frame fit. This, in turn, ensures that patients who wear advanced, digitally designed and manufactured lenses will get the maximum performance from them. Some dispensing systems also incorporate features that allow patients to capture and send images of themselves trying on frames.

One popular dispensing system is i.Terminal by Carl Zeiss Vision, which is part of Zeiss’ i.Scription system. Both the original i.Terminal and the newly redesigned i.Terminal2 can take personal measurements with 0.1mm accuracy. They use the patient’s own image to aid frame selection and demonstrate premium lens options.

Dr. Klein of Total Vision Care said his patients like the i.Terminal, adding that the system helps his staff dispense customized Zeiss lenses such as Zeiss Individual. “Before we had an iTerminal, our opticians were using pens to dot the lenses,” he recalled. “This is such a contrast.”

Essilor’s entry into the field of high tech dispensing is the Visioffice System. The system offers several benefits for patients, including precise measurement for better lenses, improved patient experience through education and frame selection and personalized vision provided by the exclusive Essilor products such as Varilux Ipseo IV, Varilux eyecode, Varilux Physio Enhanced eycode, and Essilor eyecode single vision lenses.

Since introducing Visioffice in 2010, Essilor has installed about 1,200 systems across the U.S., including one at Prado Vision and Lasik Center in Tampa, Fla. “If you’re going to ask someone to get a custom-made lens, that patient is going to expect to be measured with something a little more precise than a Sharpie and a ruler,” said Prado’s Salvatore Musumeci, OD, FAAO. “That technology has been around since the caveman.”

Dr. Musumeci said Visioffice has been an important factor in boosting sales of premium lenses. He also likes the fact that the sleek looking unit grabs the attention of his patients. “I stress to our optical staff, it’s not just about a patient sitting in the chair at particular time. It’s about the 40 other people there who are picking out glasses. That’s why we have mandated that regardless of what lens the patient picks, they get measured with the Visioffice. We know it’s going to spark conversation. It has a ‘wow’ factor.”

Another Visioffice user, Dr. Scot Morris of Eye Consultants of Colorado, concurred. “Visioffice has a very big cool factor,” he said. “We’re one of the most high tech offices in U.S., and it blends with everything we do. It reinforces our image because it represents precision and reproducibility in terms of measurements. The large majority of patients come in and say, ‘These lenses are way better than our old lenses.’”

 
 Dr. Salvatore Musumeci, (c), uses Essilor’s Visi-office system to measure a patient, while another patient uses the system’s imaging feature.
Dr. Musumeci said his staff also uses Visioffice to show patients educational videos. Some patients also like the system’s ability to photograph them in a particular frame and then email the photo to friends or a spouse. “There’s nothing worse than picking out eyeglasses and having your wife say, ‘What were you thinking?’ With Visioffice, we’re able to either print out comparisons that patients can take them with them, or send images via email. Then the patient has a conversation or sends a text message,” said Dr. Musumeci, adding “It’s raised the bar for the level of service in our office.”

Although high tech dispensing systems were first embraced by independent eyecare practices allied with major spectacle lens vendors, some optical retail chains are now introducing their own proprietary systems. Most notably, LensCrafters has introduced its Accufit Digital Measurement System.

The Accufit system consists of three elements: a unit that digitally measures the relationship between a patient’s eyes, face, and frame in order to get a better lens fit; a lens simulator, and a virtual mirror that takes digital images of the patient. Since unveiling Accufit in September, 2011, the Cincinnati-based retailer has installed the system in nearly all of its 950 stores in North America, according to Cyndy Dinius, senior director of product innovation and commercialization at LensCrafters. She said each store, on average, has four to five Accufit systems that are integrated into fitting counters.

“We look at it as a holistic experience,” said Dinius. “We want to make sure the customer loves their eyewear when they leave the store. We ensure they’re confident in making the best lens choice, and that their lenses are placed accurately in their frames. It’s integral to how we do business.” Dinius said that introducing Accufit has resulted in “meaningful gains in customer satisfaction.” She said customers are “delighted and engaged” by the system, and are more confident of their eyewear choices. “They view our associates as more skilled and knowledgable,” she added.

 
 A LensCrafters associate uses the Accufit system to show a patient how she looks wearing various eyewear styles.
Dinius said LensCrafters will continue to upgrade Accufit, although she did not offer specifics. However, LensCrafters’ parent company, Luxottica, is already looking at more ways to enhance the patient experience at the retail chain. Last month, at Luxottica’s annual investor and analyst presentation meeting, Mark Weikel, president and general manager, LensCrafters, provided a glimpse of the company’s plans.

“We want to transform LensCrafters to provide a signature customer experience,” said Weikel. He said the company is exploring a more contemporary service model that will feature a new store design along with a “next generation digital eye exam” and digital lens surfacing technology.

Weikel said LensCrafters has piloted “a contemporary interpretation of a customer experience model centered on a digital ‘omni-channel’ experience.” He noted that he company’s key initiatives for 2012 also include “a new selling model” and “an in-store digital experience pilot involving the store front, waiting area, screening area and exam room.”

Hoya Vision Care is taking a different approach to the fitting process. Rather than concentrating on eyeglass fit, Hoya offers a frame-and- lens system that minimizes stress in the lens, thereby eliminating distortion. The system, known as Hoya DF (DistortionFree Optics), integrates Hoya’s ultra lightweight and durable Phoenix lenses, its proprietary free-form designs and Super HiVision Ex3 AR coating and Avantek’s patented mounting technology, which eliminates the need for obstructive screws, wires or rims.

 
 Dr. Ryan Veatch and Deb Jordan with Hoya DF eyewear. 
Since its introduction last fall, Hoya DF has met with acclaim, having been voted best new product by attendees at last month’s International Vision Expo East in New York. Blink Vision by Veatch in Coralville, Iowa, is an early adopter of the system. “One of our patients’ primary concerns is looking for eyewear that is lightweight and durable,” explained optician Deb Jordan. “We’ve had a great amount of success with Hoya DF. It’s virtually like wearing no glasses at all.”

Ryan Veatch, OD, said he and his staff ask patients to describe their eyewear likes and dislikes. “If weight comes up, or they say they don’t’ like wearing glasses because they give them headaches or pull on their ears, they’re good candidates for Hoya DF.”

Dr. Veatch said the Hoya DF system has broad patient appeal. “We’ve sold the Hoya glasses to many types of patients, including contact wearers not wild about wearing glasses, or patients who have sensitive noses and ears and hate the weight of conventional glasses,” he said. “For these patients, there’s a big ‘wow’ factor.” He noted that his staff uses a polariscope provided by Hoya to demonstrate the lack of stress in the Hoya lenses as well as the distortion in their current lenses.