A new way to calculate biometric lenses
Over the past few years, Uttenweiler says Rodenstock has built a “huge database” of more than 500,000 DNEye scans. He has now used artificial intelligence (AI) to find patterns and correlations to develop new standards in data. This means that it can now take parameters from subjective refraction – sphere, cylinder, axis and addition – and use them much more.
The AI-power calculation engine examines patterns in a complex multi-dimensional environment and can create a correlation line for each individual. In effect, an “approximate eye model” for each prescription can be created using only the standard prescription values.
Although this does not offer the same accuracy as its DNEye Level 1 lenses, Uttenweiler claims that it will offer more superior lens practices than any other standard lens on the market.
To respond to this new approach, Rodenstock is introducing a new portfolio structure this year. BIG Exact will become its premium lenses available in practices with a DNEye scanner, while BIG Norm will offer lenses calculated by standard prescription values and AI technology.
“These will represent well over 80% of the Rodenstock brand portfolio we offer. Of course, we will have a few entry-level products left with the standard portfolio, but we communicate that independent practices opt for a DNEye BIG Exact or BIG Norm portfolio because they are the next generation of lenses,” says Uttenweiler.
The story behind the lenses
For independents, differentiation in an increasingly price-competitive and commoditized market remains one of the major challenges. Although it’s assumed that patients are more interested in frames than lens technology, Uttenweiler says Rodenstock’s current CEO, Mr. Anders Hedegaard – with a background in medical technology – challenged that position when it started three years ago.
“He said we were selling a high-tech product and asked me to explain why our lenses were a superior product,” he recalls.
“After that he said I don’t see why the end consumer wouldn’t be interested in the story you just told me, we just need to tell it in a relevant way that resonates with them.”
The company employed a specialist, data-driven marketing agency in Denmark, which conducted research that confirmed consumers wanted to better understand lens technology, prompting Rodenstock to do lens storytelling. a higher priority for its independent clients.
“Saying that you are premium and not offering any additional services just won’t work. We now have educated end consumers who want to understand the difference and why they are paying more,” he explains.
“First, we need a compelling explanation and, second, we need a product that performs that matches how it’s been described to them. That’s our main story with our BIG eyewear – we’ve got something which allows our customers to differentiate themselves simply because it’s a completely different flow when a patient walks into the store.
“You get parameters that the patient has not yet measured. Coupled with this is a very different explanation for how Rodenstock uses the biometrics of the eye to calculate and produce the lens. Above all, the message can be conveyed in simple terms, and that is what we offer as a unique selling proposition to our customers.
You have to believe in technology
Teaching practices around the DNEye scanner and Rodenstock’s lens portfolio forms an important part of Ms. Nicola Peaper’s role as the company’s National Sales and Australian Professional Services Manager.
She has worked in the optical industry for over 35 years; 20 as an optometrist. Major changes such as the production of free forms and new categories like professional tapers occurred during this period. But until she started working in manufacturing, their implications had largely passed her by.
“While I think lens technology information and education is much better now, there are still practitioners who think one lens is pretty much the same as another and that it doesn’t There’s no advantage to choosing newer technologies, unless they can fully trust a product, they can’t be expected to use it.
Rodenstock’s professional services team works closely with its marketing department to ensure brochures and tools are accurate and understandable, which is then passed on to its sales force.
“The initial technology must be understood and believed. Patient benefit and value must be realized and it is the role of a knowledgeable sales team to explain this to practice managers. Finally, the practice staff must communicate to the patient about the products on several levels. Again, the training has to be done in practice,” says Peaper.
“When these elements are complete, not only will the lens manufacturer get good adoption of their products, but the practice should also see a better customer experience and less product mismatch.”
With Zacharia Naumann at Wagga Wagga acquiring the first DNEye scanner in Australia in 2018, 33 others have since followed. In progress, Rodenstock Australia is introducing local DNEye Scanner user groups, initially tested in WA and SA so that new users have access to existing and more experienced users.
Peaper says this all-encompassing approach – in addition to CPD articles and presentations at trade events – is well received by Rodenstock’s customers.
“The amount of support and information we provide ensures that Australia has one of the highest individual scanner utilizations in Rodenstock’s global market. Our customers have confidence that if they have any issues or questions, the support is there,” she says.
“Finally, we have an ongoing relationship with Thao and Grant Hannaford at the Academy of Advanced Ophthalmic Optics benefiting from the education they provide for practices with a DNEye scanner. This is invaluable in helping to understand not only the DNEye technology, but also general lens technology and how to discuss it with patients.
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