As temperatures continue to rise, it is safe to say that summer is here in full force. Patients will be caught up in summer activities like going to the pool, camping or planning beach vacations, not worrying about the dangers of spending hours outdoors. It is important to educate them about the possible damages that can be caused not only by the UV light, but also high-energy visible (HEV) light, or blue light. May is Healthy Vision Month, providing a gateway for eye care professionals to start conversations about these potentially harmful light wavelengths.
Whereas UV rays are a well-documented danger to summer fun,
blue light is an ever-growing concern. In Eyecare Business’s Blue Light Special, Gary Morgan, OD explained, “Researchers continue to study the impact of long-term, cumulative blue light exposure on our eyes. In a sense, we’re in the early days of the blue light story.” The sun is the most potent source of blue light, but digital devices also utilize the wavelength for back-lit screens.
Blue Light and Your Practice
According to the Vision Council’s 2017 Blue Light & Digital Eye Strain report, 91% of those ages 18-39 use digital devices for more than 2 hours a day, while 88.6% of those 49-59 do, and 78.5% of those 60 and up. With digital device use increasing exponentially, it is hard for patients to escape harmful blue light. Only 31.5% of Americans talk to their eye doctors about their device usage, making it increasingly important for ECPs to be the initiators of the conversation providers of protection from the constant blue light barrage. Dr. Morgan believes, “The opportunity for our profession is right in front of us.”
Aaron Werner, OD, and Bradley Schwartz, OD, saw this opportunity and established themselves as “blue light specialists.” Both have built blue light into their practice routines, and it has paid off in terms of patient service and satisfaction, and revenue. These two have positioned their practices as “blue light experts” in their communities, and they’ve pinpointed one major pillar they believe moved them from doctor to specialist: education.
Education is the Key
Dr. Werner and Dr. Schwartz feel that by adding blue light education into their exam rooms, optical evaluation, and their websites helped patients to see them as specialists. But they didn’t start with patient education. These two believe that they and their staff needed to know and, more importantly, understand the blue light information in order to communicate effectively with patients. They stress that visual aids like demonstrations and printed pieces explaining blue light or solutions to blue light resonate best. For example, Dr. Schwartz and his staff created a patient packet that is given to patients at check-in, then reiterate the information within the packet throughout the visit. “It’s our responsibility to present them with information,” says Schwartz. “And that’s what we do.”
Beyond education, eye care professionals should also suggest the next steps for patients to take. Having products and/or services pertaining to eye health protection solidifies practices as the go-to resource for everything blue light. Measuring the eye’s natural defense against blue light, macular pigment, can show you and your patients their risk for blue light damage. Macular pigment optical density (MPOD) can be improved with compliant nutritional supplementation. Blue light lenses are a popular option to offer patients, along with corrective lens screen filters.
Patient and Practice Benefits
As the primary care physician of their eyes, you can start the conversation about blue light and their overall health. Incorporating blue light education and proactive measures into your practice can improve patient care and increase practice value. For patients, a preventative approach can protect their eye health for years to come, keeping their vision crisp and clear late into the years. The education aspect helps them to feel empowered and informed, and it also puts you and your practice at the forefront of their mind as an information source.
As your practice becomes established as a resource, patients will feel more comfortable coming to you rather than the internet with questions and recommendations. The acquired trust will also encourage current patients to send referrals your way, ultimately gaining your practice more recognition and more revenue. Including “next steps” in-practice also increases revenue and ensures your patients leave with your suggested products.
Proactive eye care is key in protecting and enhancing eye health throughout the years. With the increase in blue light sources, there is a growing importance for eye care professionals to share their knowledge about the damages blue light can cause. Dr. Werner stresses that the topic of blue light will only continue to pick up steam, saying, “This is an exciting and emerging area that requires continued research and focus.”
Begin educating yourself and your staff with the Blue Light Whitepaper Series. These papers cover an overview of blue light, effects on eye health and circadian rhythm, the positive effects and suggestions on products that can help mitigate blue light damage. From there, you can feel confident in starting the blue light conversation with your patients.