An optician’s job is not as simple as it sounds. It is much more than looking at a prescription, helping the customer select a frame, taking measurements and ordering the new lens from an ophthalmology lab. The sure shot way to generating complete customer satisfaction is to know it all
When an eye doctor examines the eye and prescribes the need for a new pair of spectacles, the next stop for a patient is the optician’s shop. Here, patients hand over the prescription to the optometrists and they help them choose the right option. However, the process that follows is often not as simple as it occurs. There are times when patient may not feel comfortable even though his vision improves. This may not be the error of the doctor always, sometimes it just requires a little more attention on the optician’s part to ensure that the customer gets a comfortable frame. This is where the art of spectacle dispensing comes into picture.
The Art of Dispensing
Dispensing is the job that is done by the optician. After a patient has been examined by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, a prescription is made. When the patient hands over the prescription to the optician and places an order for a new pair of spectacles, he sparks off the whole process. This process is called dispensing. The optician is not a chemist who looks at the prescription, checks out his stock of powered spectacles and does an OTC (Over the Counter) sale. In fact, from the moment he gets the prescription in his hand till the time he hands over the spectacles to his customer, it’s a good few days. An important duty of the optometrist is to help his customer select the right kind of frame after taking into account various factors like the age of the patient, the type of work he or she does and other details.
Basis the various factors and above all, the comfort of the patient, the optician will then pass on the measurements to the lab and order the lens. Finally, the ready spectacles reach him. Ideally, it is always a good practice to match the ready spectacles with the prescription once again, before finally handing it over the customer. The loop is thus complete.
Unfortunately, very often this does not happen. From the point of taking measurements to the selection of the lens to the accuracy of the refraction, missing out on any one step can eventually result in less-than-perfect spectacles. It is important for the optometrist to stretch his responsibilities beyond just making the sale and ensure that the patient does not end up with a pair of inaccurately powered spectacles.
As spectacles is the commonest way of correcting refractive errors, it is vitally important for them to be dispensed accurately with zero error. There is a certain area of tolerance that is earmarked for every ‘number’. The level of this tolerance for different power ranges. Several countries of the west have regulations set up by the government that define the level of tolerance. In India, so far there are no rules regarding this. Therefore, it is imperative that opticians be cautious in order to be able to deliver in accordance to the expectations of their customers.
What opticians need to do?
There is huge advancement in the quality of lenses available today. But no matter how good the lenses are or how correct the prescription, if dispensing fouls up then vision will definitely be affected. There is a certain level of expertise needed to make perfect lenses but for this, opticians need to ensure that they stay updated with the latest in lens care technology. A good way to keep yourself abreast with the industry is through enrolling for programs or seminars where companies inform the opticians about the latest innovation in lenses.
Unlike camera lenses where user knowledge has increased considerably in the last few years, as far as eye lenses are concerned, user knowledge is still limited, in fact can be called negligible. This makes it even more important for the opticians to stay informed with regards to what’s new and what’s not. Spectacle lenses are so completely customised. But whether the area of correction is right at the centre of the eye vision and whether it has been made in the most accurate direction, whether the spectacle will sit correctly on the bridge of the nose so that all the parameters are exactly the way they are meant to be depends purely on the understanding of the optician.
And for opticians aspiring to run successful businesses, it is important to invest in regular upgradation of their knowledge in order to guarantee that their customer goes home satisfied with the purchase he or she makes.
Areas of Learning
Certain areas of learning need regular attention. New research can throw up new findings and it would help opticians if they are kept abreast with these findings. Advanced lens designs with prior technical information about basics of optics, properties of light, modalities of lenses, materials, coatings, frame types and measurements, types of bifocals, progressive lenses, dispensing techniques, PD markings can all be part of such learning.
Understanding the various types of lenses is an integral part of the dispensing process. Equally important is the understanding of frames. Which kind of frame will suit what face. Do children and senior citizens require different kinds of frames. Frame design and frame measurement again are an important part of the discussion.
For the customer to be thoroughly satisfied with his pair of glasses, the fundamentals of spectacle checking has to be thorough. It is important for the optician to implement a comprehensive process of checking all parameters, as part of his business. But before that, thorough training is a must. Information and usage of products like bifocals, progressive addition lenses, plus frames as per age, and lens knowledge right from the evolution of lens design to differences between spherical and aspheric technology, different lens material and high index lenses. It is equally important to know about various lens treatments like coatings, anti-reflection coating (ARC), Photochromics, tints, hard coat (HC), HMC, HMCC, Polaroid lenses. There is a deep connection between lens design, prescription and lens treatments which also has to be clearly understood.
It would also help to organise group learning sessions. It would be more participatory in nature, and participants could come up with their personal stories of how they have dealt with difficult cases. This kind of sharing will open up discussions on troubleshooting and ultimately propagate the growth of the business.
Dispensing is a Discipline
For any process to be structured and automated, learning has to be backed by data. Unlike other countries, India does not have any government authorised data on a large sample of patients to determine the extent of accuracy the optician is able to achieve while dispensing. Moving on, it is important to treat dispensing as a full-fledged discipline investing in collecting data and understanding the details in greater depth. This data should include information on errors that occur in power or axis element, the dispensing of particular type of lenses and a whole lot of other details. And finally, it is important for the optician to adhere to the process and include it as part of their daily practice. Somewhere down the line, even the patient’s zero patience towards inaccuracy would up the level of performance of the opticians definitely. In short, if opticians start believing that dispensing is a discipline, practicing it would be a cakewalk.