Introducing Nutritional Supplements  into your Sports Vision Practice

Nutrition is increasingly recognized as a key component of optimal sporting performance. Whether you are just starting or already have an established sports vision practice, offering supplements presents an opportunity for you to present the athlete in your chair with products containing ingredients that have been shown not only to lower the risk of certain eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, but that also can help maintain or enhance some visual skills that are essential for optimal sports performance.

As eye care practitioners look for ways to enhance vision for their patients and improve practice performance, many find alternative sources of revenue through the sale of products such as vitamins and supplements. Incorporating dietary supplements into your practice can improve patient outcomes,  increase patient satisfaction with your practice, and lead to referrals from happy patients.

Following are five tips to help you along the way:

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Explain why nutrition for the eyes is important

The athlete in your chair may be somewhat knowledgeable about the need to replace lost fluids and electrolytes during exercise, eat protein to boost glycogen storage, reduce muscle soreness and promote muscle repair, and eat healthy carbohydrates for energy,  but he/she most likely has limited or no understanding about the importance of consuming certain nutrients to keep their eyes healthy and sustain optimal visual performance.

You know there is no substitute for a well-balanced diet.  However, since it is likely that most of your patients don’t get all the nutrients they need from the foods they eat, you have an opportunity to  talk with them about their nutrition and determine if augmenting their diet with supplements that have been shown, through research, to benefit eye health and help optimize performance, is right for them.

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Get Smart About Nutrition

Consider attending continuing education classes focused on clinical nutrition, such as those offered by The Ocular Wellness & Nutrition Society, search the literature, and ask manufacturers to provide you with independent studies that demonstrate that their advertised claims are backed by scientific or anecdotal evidence.   Make sure to keep current on research and let your patients know about findings that continue to demonstrate how nutrition plays a big role in disease prevention, as well as how it can help them in the sports they play.

Additionally, in checking the quality of the product,  look for brands that have been certified by an independent third-party company. Third-party testing is not required by law. However, some supplement manufacturers voluntarily choose to undergo testing to show their commitment to producing high quality products.   You might also look for products that are NSF Certified for Sport®.  The Certified for Sport program certifies that what is on the label is in the bottle and that the product does not contain unsafe levels of contaminants, prohibited substances or masking agents. Certification also means that supplement manufacturers and their suppliers meet stringent certification guidelines developed through a consensus process involving regulatory, sports industry and consumer groups.1

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Educate Your Staff on Supplements

Your staff should also be trained and well-educated about the benefits of ocular nutrition and be comfortable in recommending products.  Take time to educate them and help them understand the importance of your supplement recommendations.  Consider having a staff member who’s been trained in nutrition and has a good knowledge of the supplements available. You may also choose to partner with a nutritionist who can serve as a trusted resource and referral partner.

Make it Easy for Patients to Purchase and Re-Order

Once you decide on what products you will carry in your practice, make sure you have significant inventory so that patients can walk out of your office with the product you have recommended.  If you don’t recommend something specific, patients will likely let price drive their buying decision and search elsewhere for a lesser quality brand.  If you are just starting to offer nutritional products in your practice, you can start out with a fairly small inventory to test the waters and see how much interest you generate.

Insurance generally does not cover supplements although in some instances flex-spending dollars can be used.  If cost is an issue, let patients know that you understand that cost may be a factor, but your job is to protect their vision and eye health and prescribe the products that you believe will best do that.

Make it easy for patients to re-order as well as it is unlikely that they will come back to your office to repurchase before their next scheduled visit.  On your website, having a shopping cart with all of the brands you recommend in one place with free shipping will tremendously increase your success.

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Have a display area in the lobby

Patients often like to see the products you recommend to them. More and more patients are highly educated and like to read product labels. Proper display and placement offers them the opportunity to begin familiarizing themselves with the products you recommend.  Also, provide literature, such as  ...  and copies of articles that  address this topic.  The time your patients spend in your waiting area provides a great opportunity to educate them.

You may also want to consider hosting in person or via a webinar a presentation on ocular nutrition or producing a short video to further educate your patients.

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References

  1. NSF International Certified for Sport program https://www.nsfsport.com/about-us/,  Accessed 4/21/21

    This important health information has been made available thanks to an educational grant provided by MacuHealth. Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by ISVA