Spectacle lenses—particularly progressive lenses—have seen quite an evolution over the past half century.
Since the 1950s, optical engineers have been working on the concept of a progressive lens design blending more than one viewing zone, with Younger Optics, Zeiss, and Essilor playing important roles in creating early versions.
Within just a few years, progressive lenses jumped from fairly crude designs that required larger lens sizes (and a lot of wearer patience to adapt) to fine-tuned progressive channels that merged three viewing zones comfortably. Well, fairly comfortably, as lens makers still grappled with reducing the aberrations and peripheral distortions that challenged some wearers.
Then, about a decade ago, digital surfacing technology (also known as free-form surfacing) blew open an entire new era of design capability. Optical hasn’t looked back.
A NEW ERA
“When digital surfacing became available, it changed the game with vision quality and what lens designers were able to create,” says Dave Ziegler, O.D., of Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare in New Berlin, WI.
Digital surfacing uses computer-generated designs and a multipoint diamond-tip cutting tool to sculpt a personalized multifocal Rx onto the backside of the lens with precision. Now, software can optimize and compensate individual prescriptions—taking into consideration frame size, the position of the frame on individual faces, and a host of other measurements and data input unique to the patient (including how they actually use each eye)—to fashion a highly personalized lens created with precision to fit the visual needs of its wearer.
These new premium designs have done away with nonadapts and patients complaining of swim, too.
So how can this new age of premium, highly personalized progressive lenses help your patients—as well as your overall business?
We checked in with Dr. Ziegler and Monica Larimore, ABOC, of Eagle Vision Eye Clinic in Longmont, CO, to explore the answer to this question. Both report that a whopping 90% of their multifocal lens sales are premium, personalized PALs.
Here’s how these high-tech, made-to-order lenses have helped their businesses.
» Patient Service.
An optician for nearly 45 years, Larimore has witnessed the entire evolution of PALs, and is loving what the new era of lenses is doing for patients. Her go-to PAL design is the new Shamir Autograph Intelligence.
“It’s like wearing a single-vision lens. I know of no patient who has brought one back due to nonadapt,” she says. “People don’t want to have to think about their vision. They don’t want to have to work for it.” With premium PALs, she says, “I put my glasses on and soon I forget I have them on. That’s what people want. One less thing to think about. And they want to be comfortable.”
» Specialty Use.
Digital surfacing technology opened the door for finely tuned, special-purpose PALs, such as those used in vision rehabilitation and therapy. Dr. Ziegler uses tech like Zeiss’ iScription to address higher-order aberrations, and neurolenses, which use contoured variable prism to help people with chronic eye strain and headaches.
He uses premium designs for second-pair computer glasses, as well, providing patients with more comfortable, task-specific vision.
“We can make significant improvements in our patients’ overall quality of life when we use the newest lens designs to maximize how they see,” he says.
» Business Boosters.
Dr. Ziegler says the personalized PALs fulfill patient expectations that the practice is on top of new tech. His go-to premium design is the Varilux X Series from Essilor.
“Our patients have come to expect that every two or three years we will be upgrading the technology in their lenses with new designs,” he says. He takes advantage of promotions like Essilor’s Ultimate Lens Package to upgrade patients with special motivating deals. “This was enormously popular with our patients and increased our second-pair sales fivefold.”
» Measuring Aids.
Though personalized PALs perform best when constructed with personalized measurements like position of wear, it’s not a requirement. Dr. Ziegler uses Visioffice to gain accuracy to help in the lens performance.
“I’m old school and I like the hands-on measuring,” Larimore says. “Shamir provides us with hand-measuring devices so we can still get the panto, the vertex, all those important position-of-wear measurements. And even with that, people are always impressed that we take all these various measurements.”
THE SUPPORTING PLAYERS
Lens designs aren’t the only vision tools embracing absolute precision. What good are lenses that can be designed to 1/100th of a diopter if the Rx isn’t as detailed?
Over the past few years, refractors and other exam-related equipment have evolved to produce more exacting visual profiles than ever before. Using them with the premium PAL of your choice will result in the most personalized, precise lens possible.
Here’s a sample:
- iProfiler and iScription from Zeiss
- Vision-R 800 phoropter from Essilor Instruments USA
- Perfectus from VMAX vision