Thank you, Dr. Despotidis, for auditioning for our TEDx conference. We received hundreds of applications, many with valuable topics like the one you presented. Unfortunately, our committee did not find room for your talk in this year’s symposium. We encourage you to apply next year. Thank you, The Selection Committee
The Information That They Want
I received several rejections like the one above after auditioning on the significance of the worldwide myopia epidemic confronting families. But in 2019, after my ninth audition, my talk was accepted.
What made the difference? I changed my narrative. Instead of focusing solely on the visual and anatomical ramifications of myopia progression, which seemed to alarm parents more than educate them, I began to focus on what parents were most concerned with: the amount of time their children were spending looking at screens. Today, that concern is paramount among parents.
This realization occurred in my exam room after a discussion with a parent. A child’s myopia had steadily progressed through the years, so I began to educate them about the potential consequences of myopia, like retinal detachment, glaucoma, and early cataracts. The mom’s response: “Dr. D, you’re scaring me, and my son does not need to hear this. You upset him.” I returned her teary gaze with a look of regret and bewilderment. Her family never returned to my care.
In my inaugural article for this column, titled “What ‘Job’ Does Orthokeratology Fill?” (Despotidis, 2020), I introduced what I’d learned from these two experiences. I was misguided when I felt that the only job orthokeratology filled was safely correcting vision and slowing myopia progression. I have since learned this is just the minimum expectation of patients seeking care.
Parents—consciously and subconsciously—require more. They have deeply held concerns about their children’s screen time and its effect on their health. More important, they want advice on what to do about it. In response to this realization, I’ve made time to discuss screen time with all my pediatric patients and offer advice, backed with research, to reinforce my recommendations.
What Do Parents Ask?
Do blue filtering glasses work? How much screen time is too much? Does the lighting by which my child reads make a difference? Do smartphones affect my child’s eyesight?
I’ve discovered that if I make the time to confront these questions, I’m rewarded with quality referrals (i.e., recommendations made by parents specifically to my care, because I address the concerns most important to them). There are no definitive answers, but there are guidelines for how much time children should spend outdoors.
Additionally, I share how the algorithms behind many of the apps that students use keep them indoors and prevent them from healthy in-person interactions. Although I don’t often provide an “answer,” I provide insight, guidance, and hope—more than they receive from most health professionals.
In my experience, successful marketing of orthokeratology has nothing to do with search engine optimization or advertising, and everything to do with understanding the job that orthokeratology fills: educating parents on the topics dear to their hearts, taking time to listen, and caring enough to advise them. Effective marketing is synonymous with exceptional care. I’ve learned from my lectures to parents and my encounters in the exam room that when I take the time to address parents’ stated and unstated concerns, I’m rewarded with unparalleled family loyalty. CLS
- Despotidis N. What “Job” Does Orthokeratology Fill? Contact Lens Spectrum. 2020 Mar;35:42. Available at clspectrum.com/issues/2020/march-2020/orthokeratology-today . Accessed Sep. 19, 2022.