These days, there is more focus on health and wellness than ever before. Whether it is the spike in gym memberships or the push for organic foods, society is trying to make the switch to a healthier lifestyle. Many people are becoming more interested in vitamins and nutraceuticals to support their overall health and eye health, but some eye care professionals are leery of selling eye health nutraceuticals in their practices.
In a recent article on eyetubeOD.com, Robert L. Davis OD, FAAO gives his opinion on the rising demand for ocular nutraceuticals and the rising pushback of some eye doctors. He asks those naysayers, “Is there a difference between selling or recommending nutraceuticals and vitamins to your patients and dispensing spectacles and contact lenses to them?” He spends the rest of the piece arguing that there is no difference, explaining the benefits of supplying nutraceuticals in-house rather than sending patients to nearby drug stores or pharmacies, or not recommending them at all.
First step: understand the science behind the ingredients found in most eye health nutraceuticals. To feel comfortable recommending the products, you must be confident in their ingredients and benefits. Some ingredients common in eye health nutraceuticals that have been proven to be beneficial to eye health include:
- Bioflavonoids: help ocular tissues to fabricate rhodopsin.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: form the macular pigment to protect the photoreceptors form phototoxic blue light.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: necessary for proper visual development and retinal function; help maintain the integrity of the nervous system, improve the immune system and provide nutrients to cellular components.
- Zinc: transports vitamin A from the liver to the retina for the production of melanin.
- Vitamin A: essential for the fabrication of rhodopsin, regeneration of the epithelial tissue of the eye and wound healing; also, neutralizes free radicals in tissues that have low oxygen concentrations.
- Vitamin C: strengthens the walls of blood vessels, reducing their permeability; removes free radicals in the crystalline lens and reduces intraocular pressure.
- Vitamin E: protects the cells from free radicals.
- Selenium: protects from oxidative stress that leads to free radical formation and necessary to the body’s absorption of vitamin E.
Once you are certain about a line of nutraceuticals, there comes a decision of whether to dispense the products in your practice or send your patients elsewhere. Here are three reasons Dr. Davis uses to support housing your chosen product in-practice:
1. Trustworthy Products
Selling products out of your practice helps to ensure that your patients receive the exact ingredients in the correct dosages you prescribe while eliminating the search for products online or in drug stores and the risk of patients not filling the prescription. In a recent study, three out of four people said that they would prefer to fill their prescriptions in office instead of having to go to a pharmacy, and 20-30% of the time, prescriptions do not get filled at all. This means that improved compliance could be an outcome of dispensing nutraceuticals.
2. Better Medication Monitoring
In Dr. Davis’s piece, he recalls a patient who had picked up a nutraceutical for her aging eyes because she had heard supplementing was a good way to keep her vision functioning at its best. He asked about her other medications, and she mentioned she was taking blood thinners. Davis “told the patient to stop taking the nutraceuticals until we had checked with her primary care provider” because the two medicines could interact poorly. By prescribing nutraceuticals in-practice, you can know exactly what nutrients your patients are taking.
Ensuring that your patients receive nothing but the best can help to improve their outcomes. Offering those options in-practice helps to ensure compliance as well as product quality monitoring. Dr. Davis insists that “selling the best nutraceuticals and accessory products to our patients is no different from dispensing the best spectacles or contact lenses to them.”
3. Additional Income
Davis mentions that declining insurance reimbursements and consumer-driven health care can push some doctors to improve the patient experience and find new forms of income. Supplying nutraceuticals from your practice can provide an additional revenue source while enhancing your patient experience by removing the extra step of shopping around.
Whether you offer contact lenses, glasses, medication, eye drops, nutraceuticals or all of the above, it is important to consider every option that can help you give your patients the very best ocular care. Dr. Susan Lake had some reservations about incorporating nutraceuticals in her practice, but she came to realize that it was the best solution for her patients. Read her full story.