Published in Primary Care

How We Bring New Pharmaceuticals to Our Optometry Practice

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7 min read

One of my practice’s core values is to be innovative in the solutions we introduce to our patients. Here is the thought process when thinking about whether or not to introduce a new pharmaceutical product.

How We Bring New Pharmaceuticals to Our Optometry Practice
Staying current on the latest innovations in the eyecare world can be difficult when you are providing daily patient care as well as running a business. Is every pharmaceutical change worth spending your time thinking about, meeting with pharmaceutical representatives, and introducing to patients?
Owning my own private optometry practice has been an incredible experience. I opened my specialty contact lens practice In Focus: Specialty Contact Lens & Vision Solutions, in Scottsdale, Arizona cold in 2020 and have enjoyed the daily wins of treating my patients, as well as the interesting facets of running a business.
One of my practice’s core values is to be innovative in the solutions that we introduce to our patients. This could involve treatment with pharmaceuticals, visual aids like glasses, contact lenses, and magnifiers, recommendations for glasses lens coatings and technology, and having the highest quality referral sources for things I do not treat.
Staying current with the newest innovations is something I think patients care about more than we even realize. Years before I opened my own practice, I did research looking at the highest-rated and lowest-rated optometry offices in different large cities in the US. One of the most common things mentioned in a 5-Star Google Review? New technology.
Here is my thought process when thinking about whether or not to introduce a new pharmaceutical product (or really adding any new offer to my practice, for that matter).

Think about the things that matter most to your patient base

Being a specialty contact lens practice (no glasses or comprehensive exams) my patients are primarily concerned with their visual acuity, dry eye, or “droopy lids.” This makes it easy for me to weed out what knowledge to retain about new pharmaceuticals, and which to introduce to my patients.
For example, I do not treat glaucoma. I have all the equipment to diagnose but I am very busy with other sections of the optometry field. This means that I refer out all of my glaucoma-suspect and glaucoma patients for co-management with a specialty optometrist or ophthalmologist. When a new glaucoma treatment medication comes out, I like to have a baseline knowledge of it (especially since a few personal family members have glaucoma), but I leave all the recommendations of medication to the specialists who I trust with my patients.
On the other hand, because so many of my contact lens patients have dry eye, when a new medication becomes available to treat dry eye, I like to stay current on this topic.
There are many pharmaceuticals that you can purchase wholesale and sell to your patients in-office. Although my volume in Year 3 of business does not support this yet, this could be a nice addition to a high volume practice and offer convenience for patients as well as additional revenue.

Research on your own and meet with your pharmaceutical representative

This is the best way to find out about offerings, exact information, and the ins and outs of each medication. Pharmaceutical representatives are extremely knowledgeable and have great insight into who in your area, or the industry is prescribing the most of something so you can reach out to colleagues in your area for their opinion on certain medications.
It is important to know things such as exact dosage, how to prescribe (some drops require the usage of private pharmacies), benefits, and side effects.

Write down a summary of each medication and educate your staff

When a medication is brand new, having a written summary, side effects, and prescribing instructions in-office for yourself and staff members can be very helpful. Educating your staff is especially beneficial when more mainstream medications are released (such as VUITY™) and patients will call to inquire about them after seeing advertisements.
For novel medications, I do like to trial them on the patient in-office to see any adverse effects before writing a prescription. This would require a patient who is interested in a new medication (such as the cosmetic medication, Upneeq®) to see me first for a trial run before we send it to their pharmacy. This helps me be confident that my patient isn’t going to have an adverse reaction, especially with a medication that is new to the market.
Brand new, novel, medications are much different than an antibiotic medication that has been prescribed for a long time and has very few side effects.

Gain first access once FDA approvals are launched

To obtain alerts on FDA approvals of medications and industry information, you can sign up for email updates directly through the FDA.
You can select how often to receive email updates (daily or weekly), and what topics you would like to obtain (I subscribe to “Ophthalmology” and “Eye & Ear Drugs”).
You can also do this by staying in regular touch with your pharmaceutical reps and inviting them for meetings periodically. My office puts reminders in our joint calendar to reach out to industry representatives on a quarterly or bi-annual basis in order to stay up to date on current offerings.

Sample script for introducing a new medication to a patient:

Once you have decided that a newly introduced medication is right to prescribe to a patient, you will need to walk the patient through your prescribing process.

Here is a sample script:

“There is a new medication that has just been approved by the FDA. I would love to see if this helps to treat your _________. There are some infrequent but potential side effects that I will go through with you to make sure you are comfortable receiving a new medication. If any of these do happen, please call us right away.

Now I am going to write you a prescription and send it to your pharmacy. The front desk will double-check your pharmacy information on your way out to make sure we are sending your prescription to the right place. We will have you back in _______ days for a follow-up exam to see if the drops are working for you!”

Handing patients information about the new medication (usually coming in a packet from your pharmaceutical rep), is helpful. You can document in your EMR that this packet was given and that you reviewed potential side effects with the patient.

Key takeaways

  • Be the first to obtain information on new pharmaceuticals. Your patients will thank you for staying current and keeping them in the loop.
  • To save yourself time, have your staff be the point of contact for reps to relay any new information so you can stay abreast of any developments and decide, based on your unique patient population, which new pharmaceuticals are worthwhile to introduce.
  • Sign up for FDA email updates and add recurring dates to contact pharmaceutical reps (or reps of any kind; contact lenses, glasses, etc!) to your office calendar.
  • Read all the information on a new product yourself and incorporate discussions with pharmaceutical reps. This helps you be well-rounded on a drug topic.
  • Inform patients and document the education on any side effects or adverse reactions of brand new medications. If you have time, you can try out an initial novel drop in the office before the patient leaves!
Following some of these tips will help you to feel confident introducing new pharmaceuticals to your practice. The hardest thing about being a practice owner is finding the time to do everything. The more you can delegate your staff to follow up with pharmaceutical reps, the easier life will be for you!
Caitlin Morrison, OD, FAAO, FSLS
About Caitlin Morrison, OD, FAAO, FSLS

Dr. Morrison is residency trained in cornea and contact lens and is the owner of In Focus: Specialty Contact Lens & Vision Solutions, a private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona specializing in contact lenses for advanced ocular conditions and comprehensive care for difficult visual cases.

Caitlin Morrison, OD, FAAO, FSLS
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