We’re Not Doing Our Job

christyAs the roving photographer shooting 20/20’s Upfront Street Seen feature, I experience first-hand what consumers everywhere are wearing in the way of sunwear and eye protection as they go about their lives. Once a year, I have a special assignment to photograph your younger patients. I’ll wander an outdoor shopping mall, hit the local beaches or a tourist destination on a Saturday afternoon, photographing kids with their parents.

This year I had to go to three different locations in order to find enough kids wearing sunglasses or even ophthalmic eyewear to fulfill my assignment. There were plenty of kids to be found… that wasn’t the problem. The problem was they weren’t wearing glasses. I’d see an entire family coming down the street, both parents wearing sunglasses and three kids with no sunglasses. For every 10 children I encountered, only one was wearing glasses of any kind, and only two-thirds of those were sunglasses.

We as an industry are failing these children. Somehow, the sunscreen message has made an impression on parents, with youngsters being slathered with sunscreen at the beach. But those same kids are building sand castles in the glaring sunshine without sunscreen for their eyes. It could be because there is an immediate and visible consequence to forgetting sunscreen for your arms and face… a wicked and painful sunburn. But the accumulative damage from a life without sunglasses will wreck more permanent damage than the occasional sunburn. And yet, over and over again, my camera documented families of adults and kids where the adults all sported sunglasses while the kids’ eyes were left unprotected.

I’d like to throw out this message and see if we can make it stick: “You wouldn’t send your child outside for the day without sunscreen, would you?” Well then don’t forget sun protection for their eyes either. If we do a better job getting the message out to parents, maybe next year my assignment to photograph kids in glasses will be easier.

—Christie Walker, LabTalk Editor, 20/20 Contributing Editor

About James Spina
20/20 Editor-in-Chief

14 Responses to We’re Not Doing Our Job

  1. Barry Santini says:

    This is just a microcosm of most adult’s attitude toward eyewear: They don’t want it, and given a choice, they’d rather not have it. Who hasn’t heard the ol’ refrain “My (sister’s) lucky – she doesn’t need glasses.” Need…that’s the problem. Want…that’s the solution. Sure selection is important, but while parents will spend $100+ on new Nikes, they often consider $39 too much for children sunglasses. Why? There’s an important distinction between footwear and sunglasses: Kid’s don’t “lose” their footwear. So this risk of loss pushes down the “flip point” that parents are willing to pay. The answer? Might just be when manufacturers again leap over us “greedy middleman,” and sell direct to consumers at near wholesale. It’s coming. Kid’s sunglasses represent a whole new untapped market. (Talk about being hurt by your girlfriend). As soon as the Tyrannosaurs of our industry figure this out, we’ll be tossed aside in the same way. The real question is: Is this inevitable? Discussion.

  2. Jen Holmstrom says:

    If we can give our kids UV blocking sunscreen then they should all have top quality UV blocking sunglasses.

  3. Mike M says:

    I have to agree with Christie. We have a “Duty to Warn” about the dangers of UV and HEV, and by doing so, maybe more parents will become proactive in protecting their childrens eyes.

  4. There’s no forum here, yet you call yourselves eyewear’s #1 forum for “you”. I’m not quite sure who “you” is, but I just got banned from posting to http://www.optiboard.com/forums/forum.php for violating forum rules when I was given many reasons by them to assume that I was not. Still I found that just being able to read the forum posts was more useful than the blog posts here. I’m beginning to see a trend developing that might help explain why you are failing those children and everyone else you fail to provide the best service to as well. This trend has aspects of underestimating the intelligence of your consumers, fostering excessive dependence on eye care professionals, actively attempting to persuade consumers from utilizing the internet to the fullest, and sometimes even to the degree of dissuading them from using it at all.I have also seen a mentality similar to that of the horse and buggy-whip professionals of old or the modern entertainment content industry professional, that of entitlement to having things deviate as little as possible from the past. Maintaining such trends will only serve to facilitate the attitude of people who aren’t optical professionals that they neither need nor want optical improvement, and indeed that such a thing in not merely “not desirable”, but “undesirable”. As a person who is not an optical professional, yet eager to learn much about what opportunities exist to enhance my visual perception yet finding myself frustrated by actions committed by quite a number of optical professionals, I feel that considering the resistance I have met, I can only begin to imagine how others feel about how the eye care profession has presented itself, and that in general most negative aspects of the attitude of the eye care consumer will only change once they see a change in the attitude of the eye care professional.

  5. Commenting on older articles is closed, so I make comments relevant to the most recent ones so you get an idea what kind of image you are presenting to optical consumers.
    In “Wobbly Parker”, the story says, “She then offered to actually call my doctor for it. I noted THAT was equally creepy and asked for an exam.”

    Creepy? Maybe to the optical professional guarding their turf. But to the savvy optical consumer its an almost expected convenience. The phrase “Strongly committed” is used, then near the end the phase, “Hopefully we are ALL in this with open minds” is used. Seeing those two incongruous terms so close together like that nearly gave me mental whiplash. I hope the author appreciates the irony, but I doubt it. A commenter takes exception to the product being shipped to the home. Most consumers would see it as convenient, and possibly not even bother for the most part with the fitting. There is somewhat of a perception among the consumers that the frame quickly gets bent back out of shape anyways and if they feel a discomfort with the fit of the frame, then simply bending the frame a little bit on their own is sufficient. If this is really that far from the case, then the creation of better educational resources is in order.

    In “A Refraction Patients Can Trust”, the author provides this gem, “I get a sinking feeling in my stomach as I read down through the Snellen chart, and each successive line gets more blurry. Is that an “n” or an “m”? An “o” or a “2”? At some point, I find myself guessing.” Is the author really representative of the kind of quality we should expect from an optical professional? The solution to this dilemma isn’t too complicated. You tell the eye doctor that one way looks like an “n” and the other way looks like an “m” so, if it’s an “n” up there then one way is better, otherwise if it is an “m” the other way is better.

  6. One definition of the word “spamming” is “the act if obnoxiously doing something repeatedly for attention or in order to disturb others”, and I’m sorry if I appear to be doing so, but this site seems to be the most available outlet to express my perspective. If that’s a problem, then I’ll quit or otherwise work to remedy the situation.

    My current message is about transitioning to a new revenue model for brick-and-mortar ophthalmologists. I would be willing to pay around $50 to have my eyes measured for the newest lenses like the Varilux S Series 4D if it meant I could take those measurements to an online outfitter. Maybe that’s too little to justify the cost of purchasing a machine now, but I expect that like with other technologies the price of such machines will come down. I live in the not-so-backwater city of Muncie, Indiana, but from what I am able to determine, it is backwater enough that no such machines exist here for me to pay the $50.

    Also, what I get from eye care professionals when I attempt to explore this line of thought is expressions along the lines of, “But ophthalmologists need the money they get from the purchase of lenses and frames in order to stay in business”, and “Even if we were to equip eye care consumers with this information, they are by and large incapable of making the correct eye care decisions for them.” I find such expressions generally unhelpful and tend to shut down, rather than move the discussion along and find it dismaying that it appears that this is the intent rather than an unfortunate side effect. Whether or not I am able to make the “correct” decision for me, I feel that I would be able to make a better decision if the reality I described here replaced the current one. What’s the perspective and views of the professionals interacting with this website on this area of discussion?

    • Barry Santini says:

      And if those glasses, purchased online or at a different venue, didnt work to one’s expectation of acuity, comfort or utility, then what would a saavy optical consumer do? I hope not blame everyone but themselves for a la carting a purchase that, in the best interests of an optical consumer, is optimally done within a bundled transaction, no matter where it is purchased.

      • Well, obviously since we are dealing with savvy internet-using optical consumers, and not Joe average consumer who still wouldn’t know how to get the prescription into the database required for an order online if he was given the advantage of all the professionals with internet expertise and professionals with optical expertise willing to be paid for their services in the matter, that savvy internet-using optical consumer would work with everyone involved to determine whether the expectation of visual acuity, comfort or utility, is unreasonable, for the prices paid to each of those individuals, and if not figure out if the current situation is livable or who needs to get paid to meet his expectations, If his expectations are reasonable, then they will work with the necessary people involved to find out who is at fault and that person would most likely eat the cost of their mistake. Furthermore, I fail to see how your assumption is warranted to assume the best interests of an optical consumer is optimally served within a bundled transaction, no matter where it is purchased. I believe it is best left up to the individual consumer to determine how informed they need to be and what is optimum for them.

        I am interested, however, in being persuaded that your assumption is warranted, or that it is not best left up to the consumer, as well as any other thoughts you have.

        • Barry Santini says:

          There are so many interactive aspects that can compliment or degrade acuity, comfort and utility, that having a GC, aka general contractor, in the guise of “one controlling authority” – the B&M business establishment- should be where most of the fitting, measuring, validation, confirmation, assist & troubleshooting occurs – for everyone’s sake. If a consumer wants to strive to save money and will “take on the risk” of being the GC for their eyewear, then I am all for it.

          If this scenario became the norm, I’m am confident consumers would regret having to pay the various “a la carte” fees for any professional’s additional time and assistance in gaining their satisfaction.


          • I am curious from whence your confidence comes. My informal research of other industries in which each of the stages in the shopping experience had been lock in to one particular vendor at the first stage for all successive stages is that when various vendors were forced to compete at all stages the result was a lower price, more options and a more satisfied customer. I am curious as to what is different about the eye care industry to make it’s practitioners so confident that such a change isn’t in the cards for them as well.

          • Barry Santini says:

            In eyewear, acuity, comfort and utility all have interdependent effects on each other. For example, an optical consumer may present a rimary visual complaint that their night vision (acuity) is unsatisfactory. If the examiner adjusts the prescription strength, either stronger, weaker or in astigmatism, and the customer is happy and satisfied, no problem. But what if, as is common, night vision acuity is improved, but close focus comfort suffers unexpectedly? Or what if there are no acuity trade-offs, but the prescription adjusted astigmatism values, and there are unexpected perceptual changes (comfort) that are unacceptable for that client? Further, there are many times when middle-age consumers find superior acuity for distance accompanied by an unexpected diminishment in work utility tap hat coincidentally accompanied a position or job change? Where does/shoud the consumer suspect the fault lies? Who would e the responsible party for the cost of determining the nature of the problem and its correction? The doctor? The optician? The lab? The fact is that what makes prescription eyewear different than other medical disciplines is that there is often no responsible third party footing the bill in these oft-encountered grey areas. Unlike drugs and doctor office visits, the absence of insurance to pay for the time and changes necessary to make the consumer/patent happy are no where to be found. Sure, vision insurance currently pays for the initial exam and a fee to cover average to adequate glasses. But it does not pay for follow up costs to cover unexpected scenarios such as the few I have described. In fact, it is both the doctor, optician and lab who are footing these costs, either whole or in part in their current pricing scenario. Adjust that, and a lot of parties on both sides of this discussion will not benefit and will be unhappy. I for one am glad there is a choice for the savvy optical consumer. But choose wisely.

          • The tradeoffs involved are understood to a sufficient degree that you are able to communicate them to me in some limited fashion over the internet. Such tradeoffs can and must be communicated to the savvy internet optical consumer, just as you have done to me, before and transitioning of stock materials into customized goods is made. I feel that there might have been an unspoken assumption made on both our parts that the savvy internet optical consumer will only possess one pair of lenses to serve him over the course of about a year. In this case, once the tradeoffs have been communicated, the consumer may well decide that the tradeoffs are acceptable at night and have at least one pair for the day, and at least one pair for the night. Currently, the majority of middle-age consumers are not a savvy optical consumer, so much of what has been said doesn’t apply to them and they will be most likely satisfied with something more along the lines of the traditional route. As people age and the savvy internet consumer becomes middle age, that circumstance will change, but the eye care industry does not exist in a vacuum and other care and noncare industries are evolving as well, so it is likely that many of the other industries will come up with solutions in that time frame to significantly mitigate the problem.

            Eye care costs currently are much smaller in proportion to other medical care industries. I can afford at the very least to pay out of pocket for one eye exam and one pair of glasses, and if need be, I am able to pay as much as an eye exam to have the glasses fitted properly if it comes to that, and I am currently at the very low end of my earning potential.

            There is much that can be done in the way of anticipating scenarios that are currently unexpected, so that the consumer can be informed and plan accordingly. I also anticipate that like with many other industries, purchase satisfaction insurance will become available, so that the consumer can offset the risks and the doctor, optician and lab who are footing these costs, Buy building these costs into their current pricing scenario, the true costs are hidden from the consumer and many consumers are forced to subsidize the costs imposed by the negligence of a few. By making those negligent consumers pay for their negligence, and aware of the costs, repeat negligence is also decreased.

          • Barry Santini says:

            The scenarios I described were carefully chosen to describe commonly encountered circumstances where there *is* no real blame to be placed…any more than when your GP prescribes a drug that causes you to have an unexpected reaction to, or doesn’t deliver the expected efficacious result, and therefore must be changed. Whose to blame in the drug scenario I’ve just described? The patient? The doctor? The pharmacist? How could anyone reasonably be said to “have known better”? My point is the often there is no clear-cut blame to place. In conventional medical insurance, the system pays for what might be describe here by some as negligence. But since the consumer doesn’t pay any more than a modest co-pay for the new drug/procedure,they are insulated from the all the costs involved.

            In any event, if savvy means “save-every-penny possible,” then the savvy optical consumer is going to get a personal peek behind the optical curtain, and discover that eyewear and eye exams are far from science. They are, when performed at a responsibly high-level, often approaching art.

            Any consumer who wants to take on the chore of vetting every decision and outcome regarding their vision and eyes is welcome to do so. All online does is remove the very aspects that makes dealing with a sole provider convenient and warranteed. If you further consider the time and fatigue that accompanies any human having to confront a whole host of health decisions – decisions that they are generally insufficiently experienced or trained to adjudicate properly – then the true value of a trusted, local eyecare professional should start to become clear.

            If a savvy optical consider wants to safe money, they can. But in almost all cases, somethings will have to be sacrificed to pocket that cash. Again, my advice to all consumers is to choose wisely, and always seek out the best bundled eyecare they can afford.

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