Title:
Systems and Methods for Providing Contact Lenses to Consumers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
System for providing contact lenses to consumers includes packaging right and left contact lens prescriptions together in a secondary package which contains prescription information before delivery to the consumer.



Inventors:
Newman, Stephen D. (Bayshore Park, SG)
Coon, Jonathan C. (Salt Lake City, UT, US)
Application Number:
11/828592
Publication Date:
01/10/2008
Filing Date:
07/26/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45C11/04
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Primary Examiner:
TRUONG, THANH K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HOLLAND & HART (Salt Lake City, UT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A distributor-supplied secondary packaging for contact lenses comprising prescription information.

2. The packaging of claim 1, wherein said prescription information comprises at least one of: a prescribing doctor's information; a phone number of said prescribing doctor; or personal patient information.

3. The packaging of claim 2, wherein said personal patient information comprises a patient's name.

4. The packaging of claim 2, further comprising lens information; wherein said lens information comprises at least one of: a lens base curve; a lens power; or a lens material.

5. The packaging of claim 1, wherein said patient prescription information is printed directly on said secondary package at a contact lens distribution center.

6. The packaging of claim 1, wherein some or all of said prescription information is printed on an adhesive substrate configured to be affixed to said secondary package.

7. A contact lens packaging system, comprising: a primary package including a contact lens; and a secondary package configured to house said primary package; wherein said secondary package includes patient prescription information.

8. The contact lens packaging system of claim 7, wherein said patient prescription information comprises at least one of: a prescribing doctor's information; a phone number of said prescribing doctor; or personal patient information.

9. The contact lens packaging system of claim 7, wherein said patient prescription information is printed on said secondary package at a contact lens distribution center.

10. The contact lens packaging system of claim 8, wherein said personal patient information comprises a patient's name.

11. The contact lens packaging system of claim 8, further comprising lens information; wherein said lens information comprises at least one of: a lens base curve; a lens power; or a lens material.

12. The contact lens packaging system of claim 8, wherein said patient information is printed on an adhesive substrate configured to be affixed to said secondary package.

13. The contact lens packaging system of claim 7, wherein said secondary package is further configured to house contact lenses of two different powers.

14. The contact lens packaging system of claim 7, wherein said secondary package is further configured to house primary packages that have been pre-loaded into contact lens dispensing units.

15. A method of providing contact lenses to consumers comprising: manufacturing contact lenses of different powers and geometries; packaging contact lenses of two different powers together; stocking a percentage of the most common contact lens combinations packaged together in secondary packaging; and shipping said packages to consumers.

16. The method of claim 15, further comprising labeling said packages with prescription information before said shipping.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein said prescription information comprises at least one of: a prescribing doctor's information; a phone number of said prescribing doctor; or personal patient information.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein said personal patient information comprises a patient's name.

19. The method of claim 17, further comprising lens information; wherein said lens information comprises at least one of: a lens base curve; a lens power; or a lens material.

20. The method of claim 15, further comprising pre-loading said contact lenses into contact lens dispensers before packaging said contact lenses in said secondary packaging.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/820,432 filed Jul. 26, 2006 titled “Contact Lens Package.” Additionally, the present application is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/404,200, filed on Apr. 13, 2006, which is a divisional application of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/789,961, filed on Feb. 27, 2004, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/781,321, filed Feb. 17, 2004, which is a continuation-in-Part of PCT Patent Application Serial No. PCT/AU02/01105, filed Aug. 17, 2002, designating the United States, which application claims priority from Australian provisional patent application No. AU2001PR0007086 filed on Aug. 17, 2001, which applications are hereby incorporated by reference in their entireties which application is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Contact lenses are small lenses that are worn directly on the eye and are widely used to correct vision variations. Contact lenses have traditionally been either rigid (hard) or soft. One important consideration in wearing contact lenses is eye health, another is convenience. Contact lenses are placed directly on the eye. Consequently, it is important that the contact lenses and their packaging not introduce any unwanted contamination into the eye.

The more commonly used soft contact lenses are designed to be used for a specified number of days, and are then to be replaced. For example, many contact lenses are to be used for only one day after which they are to be disposed of. This frequent replacement of soft contact lenses is highly desirable because it is difficult for a patient to sterilize or otherwise adequately clean the inevitable contamination that builds up on the lenses over time.

Another consideration in the use and manufacture of contact lenses is convenience. Contact lenses that are intended to be replaced more often may not be as convenient to the user because of the frequent need to buy or otherwise replace the contact lenses. In addition, the secondary packaging of contact lenses is often difficult to understand. Traditionally the contact lenses are provided in a box which may contain multiple ‘blister packages’ of contact lenses. Although for some contact lens wearers only one level or strength of contact lenses is required, many users require a different strength for each eye which may necessitate the ordering of two different boxes of contact lenses.

Additionally, when contact lenses are purchased online or over the phone, the secondary packaging of the contact lens does not include the patient's prescription information. This may be problematic, especially if the patient requires different strength contacts for each eye because the patient may not always remember which contact strength corresponds to each eye. This problem may be compounded if the user does not remember to open a new box of contact lenses before disposing of the previous set of lenses. It may be difficult for the user to determine which of two boxes of contact lenses is intended for a specific eye, especially since the user may have significant visual impairment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings illustrate various embodiments of the present system and method and are a part of the specification. The illustrated embodiments are merely examples of the present system and method and do not limit the scope thereof.

FIG. 1A is a front perspective view of a traditional secondary contact lens package, according to the teachings of the prior art.

FIG. 1B is a side perspective view of a traditional secondary contact lens package, according to the teachings of the prior art.

FIG. 2A is a front perspective view of a traditional secondary contact lens package, according to the teachings of the prior art.

FIG. 2B is a side perspective view of a traditional secondary contact lens package, according to the teachings of the prior art.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a primary contact lens blister package according to one embodiment.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of another primary contact lens package according to one embodiment.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a contact lens dispensing unit according to one embodiment.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a secondary contact lens package containing a six months supply of contact lenses pre-loaded into contact lens dispensing units according to one exemplary embodiment.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another secondary contact lens package according to one exemplary embodiment.

FIG. 8 is a flow-chart of an exemplary method.

FIG. 9 illustrates the packaging and flow of a contact lens according to one exemplary embodiment of a contact lens packaging system.

Throughout the drawings, identical reference numbers designate similar, but not necessarily identical, elements.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present specification describes systems and methods for providing contact lenses to users. According to one exemplary embodiment, the secondary contact lens package provided by the manufacturer includes the patient's prescription information such as the patient's name, the prescribing doctor's name and phone number, usage information, and other information related specifically to the patient's prescription. Additionally, the present system and method includes a method of doing business in which contact lenses may be stored by a contact lens provider and supplied the consumer in an efficient and economical on-demand manner.

Further details of the present exemplary systems and methods will be provided below with reference to the figures. In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present systems and methods. It will be apparent, however, that the present apparatus, systems and methods may be practiced without these specific details. Reference in the specification to “an embodiment,” “an example” or similar language means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment or example is included in at least that one embodiment, but not necessarily in other embodiments. The various instances of the phrase “in one embodiment” or similar phrases in various places in the specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment.

As used herein and in the appended claims, the terms “primary package,” “primary packaging,” or “primary case” will be used to refer to the packaging in which a contact lens is placed during the manufacturing processes. This package is traditionally a ‘blister’ package but other primary packages are also used. Similarly, the term “secondary case,” “secondary contact lens case” and “secondary package” shall be used interchangeably and shall be interpreted broadly as including any container or packaging that a lens or supply of lenses may be placed in subsequent to being placed into a primary package. Secondary packaging includes any box or package that a supply of contact lenses may be placed in by the manufacturer for delivery to the lens wearer, a distributor, or to another destination.

As used herein and in the appended claims, the terms “manufacturer” or “distributor” will be used to refer to a third party provider of contacts lenses who provide contact lenses to individuals based on prescriptions. The terms “manufacturer” or “distributor” may refer to any business, individual, or company that sells or distributes contact lenses, excluding optometrists, ophthalmologists or others who have in-person contact with the patient.

Turning now to the figures, FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate a front perspective view and a side perspective view, respectively, of a typical prior art secondary contact lens package. Similarly, FIGS. 2A and 2B show a front perspective view and a back perspective view, respectively, of an alternative prior art secondary contact lens package.

As mentioned previously, the traditional secondary contact lens packages (100) provided by manufactures such as those illustrated in FIGS. 1A through 2B fail to notify or otherwise provide the user with prescription information. Consequently, a user may have difficulty identifying which box or strength of lens is intended for a particular eye. This difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that contact lenses are typically packaged according to the power or strength of the lenses. In practice, a user who does not readily recall their prescription will likely receive two boxes of lenses with no information indicating which box contains lenses for the right eye and which contains lenses for the left; leaving the patient to decide for themselves.

As shown in FIGS. 1A-1B, traditional secondary contact lens packages (100) provided by manufactures often include a strength or power indicator (110). They also may include a brand-name (105) and a bar-code (115). Secondary packages may be constructed from any number of materials including, but in no way limited to, cardboard, plastic, or paper. Furthermore, secondary packages may include, according to various exemplary embodiments, re-closable mating fasteners (120) such as a tab and slot fastening device, Velcro, and/or a resealable adhesive. Typically, secondary packages contain from one to two hundred contact lenses depending on the size of the package and the type of the contact lenses.

According to one exemplary embodiment, the present system includes one or more primary contact les packages contained within a secondary package. According to this exemplary embodiment, the secondary package includes prescription information specific to an intended patient. As used in the present specification, and in the appended claims, the term “prescription information” is meant to be understood as including information specific to a contact lens receiving patient such as a prescribing doctor's information, a phone number of a prescribing doctor, or personal patient information not traditionally included on secondary contact lens packages. Various components of the present system will be described in detail below with reference to FIGS. 3 through 9.

Referring now to FIG. 3, there is shown a typical prior art primary contact lens package (300) which is formed in two parts. As illustrated, the primary contact lens package (300) includes a blister pack member (310) which is sealed by a membrane (320) forming a lid on the package (300) and which may be peeled away to release a contact lens (325) contained therein. The primary contact lens package (300) illustrated in FIG. 3 is shown with the membrane (320) peeled away to expose the contact lens (325). Typically, the blister pack member (310) includes a preformed blister pack having a profiled recess (315) formed therein which provides a recess in which a lens (325) may be placed. According to traditional forming methods, the blister pack member (310) is typically injection molded and the contact lens package (300) is completed with the coupling of a sealing membrane (320) which mates with a flange (330) to create a sterile seal. During packaging, the contact lens (325) is immersed in a solution (335) which keeps the lens (325) hydrated until it is removed from the pack (300).

FIG. 4 is a top perspective view of an alternative primary packaging for contact lenses that may be included in the present exemplary system. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the exemplary contact lens package (400) includes a center substrate (425) having a top sheet member (430) coupled to the top surface of the substrate (425). The top sheet member (430) may be coupled to the top surface of the substrate (425) by a secure but detachable connection such that the top sheet member (430) can be separated from the substrate (425) with a constant and relatively low pulling force. Additionally, the top sheet member (430) is coupled to the top surface of the substrate (425) sufficient to allow the exemplary contact lens package (400) to be autoclaved. Further, FIG. 4 shows that the top sheet member (430) may contain various words and/or images including, but in no way limited to a brand name (415), a design (420), and/or information about the contact (410), for example, that it is for the left or right eye, and instructions for use. According to one exemplary embodiment, contact lenses in their primary packaging may be pre-loaded into one or more contact lens dispensers, as shown in FIG. 5, before being packaged in secondary packaging.

FIG. 5 depicts a contact lens dispenser (500) that may be included in the secondary packaging as provided by the manufacturer, according to one exemplary embodiment. As illustrated, the contact lens dispenser (500) may include a base member (510) and a hinged lid (515) coupled to the base member. When loaded into the dispenser (500) of the present exemplary embodiment, the primary contact lens packaging (520) is suitably flat, allowing each primary contact lens package containing one contact lens to be independently slid out from the container. As the top primary contact lens package (520) is removed, the dispenser may, according to one exemplary embodiment, be configured to raise the level of the remaining packages allowing access to the subsequent package. The dispenser (500) may also include a retention device (525) configured to secure the primary contact lens packages (520) to the dispenser. Particularly, according to one exemplary embodiment, the retention device (525) can be configured to hold the primary packages (520) in place when the exemplary contact lens dispenser (500) is shaken or held upside-down.

The dispenser may also be configured to separably house the contact lenses and their respective primary contact lens packaging (520) intended for use in the left and right eyes of a patient. In some embodiments the primary packaging (520) may contain a label such as an “L” or “R” in order to allow the user to easily differentiate between the lenses. In other embodiments the primary contact lens packaging (520) may be one color for the lenses intended for use on the left eye, and a different color for the lenses intended for use on the right eye. In yet another exemplary embodiment, the primary contact lens packaging (520) containing a contact lens intended to be worn on a first eye of the patient is a first color such as blue, and the primary contact lens packaging (520) containing a contact lens to be worn on a second eye is a second color such as white.

As mentioned previously, any type of primary contact lens packages, including those illustrated in FIGS. 3, 4, and 5, can be included in the present exemplary secondary contact lens package including prescription information. FIG. 6 illustrates a perspective view of a secondary contact lens package (600), according to one exemplary embodiment. As illustrated in FIG. 6, the present exemplary secondary contact lens package (600) includes prescription information (640) specific to an intended patient. As discussed above, the prescription information (640) may include information such as the patient's name, the prescribing doctor, the doctor's phone number, usage instructions, a prescription number, or other information specifically related to the patient's prescription. In the present exemplary embodiment, the prescription information (640) may be printed directly on the secondary packaging. Alternatively, the prescription information (640) may be affixed to the secondary contact lens package (600) by any number of methods including, but in no way limited to, printing the prescription information onto an adhesive label and attaching the label to the secondary contact lens package (600) before the secondary contact lens package (600) is shipped to the patient.

According to the present exemplary system and method, the inclusion of prescription information (640) on the secondary contact lens package (600) increases the level of safety experienced by a patient when using contact lenses. First, the inclusion of personal prescription information (640) allows a patient to be assured that the secondary contact lens package (600) containing contact lenses is specifically for them and contains contact lenses with the proper specifications. Second, the inclusion of a patient's personal prescription information (640) including a prescribing doctor's name and/or contact information will provide a patient with a convenient reference should questions arise.

Continuing again with FIG. 6, the present exemplary secondary contact lens package (600) also includes according to one exemplary embodiment, a left contact lens power indicator (615) and a right contact lens power indicator (630). Also included may be a brand name (650), a bar-code (635) and other information regarding the contact lenses, the manufacturer, and the like. According to one exemplary embodiment, the primary contact lens packages (400) may be disposed within the secondary contact lens package (600) of the present embodiment. The primary contact lens packages (400) may be contained individually within the secondary contact lens package (600) or they may be disposed inside contact lens dispensers (500) prior to insertion into the secondary package. Additionally, the primary contact lens packages (400) may be contained within separate bins or portions of the secondary contact lens package (600) indicative of which eye of the patient the contact lenses contained in the primary contact lens packages (400) are intended for.

As illustrated in FIG. 6, the secondary contact lens package (600) of the present exemplary embodiment includes a bottom member (610). The bottom member is preferably made from a substantially resilient and form conserving material such as, by way of example only, cardboard or plastic. The bottom member may be configured to hold any number of contact lenses housed in primary contact lens packaging. The bottom member (610) may be enclosed by a plastic covering (645) such as a heat shrink wrap, vacuum sealed plastic, or the like, according to one exemplary embodiment. This plastic (645) may be substantially clear and configured to allow a clear view of the contents of the secondary contact lens package (600).

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another exemplary embodiment of a secondary contact lens package. As illustrated in FIG. 7, the secondary contact lens package (600) includes prescription information (640). As discussed above the prescription information (640), may include information such as the patient's name, the prescribing doctor's name, the prescribing doctor's phone number, usage instructions, a prescription number, or other information related to the prescription. Again, the prescription information (640) may be printed directly on the secondary contact lens packaging (600). Alternatively, the prescription information may be printed by the manufacturer or distributor onto an adhesive label and attached to the secondary contact lens package (600) before the package is shipped to the patient.

The exemplary embodiment of a secondary contact lens package (600) illustrated in FIG. 7 also includes a left contact lens power indicator (615) and a right contact lens power indicator (630). Additionally, the markings disposed on the outer surface of the secondary contact lens package (600) may also include, but are in no way limited to, a brand name (650), a bar-code (635), and/or other information regarding the contact lenses, the manufacturer, etc. Additionally, similar to the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6, the primary contact lens packages (400) disposed within the secondary contact lens package (600) may be located inside contact lens dispensers (500). Alternatively, the primary contact lens packages (400) may be placed directly within the secondary contact lens package (600) without any dispensers (500).

The secondary contact lens package (600) of the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIG. 7 may be made from any number of structural materials including, but in no way limited to, cardboard, plastic, structural paper, or any other substantially resilient material suitable for the manufacture of containers. According to one exemplary embodiment, the secondary contact lens package (600) illustrated in FIG. 7 is a box structure made from a single sheet of cardboard, formed so as to be able to contain between 1 and several hundred primary contact lens packages. The secondary contact lens package of the present exemplary embodiment also includes a mating fastener such as a tab and slot fastener (615) configured such that after the package (600) is initially opened, the user is able to re-close the package (600) in order to store the unused contact lenses.

Exemplary Methods

Referring now to FIG. 8, a flowchart illustrating an exemplary method of providing contact lenses to consumers is shown. According to the exemplary method, the secondary contact lens cases provided to consumers include personalized prescription information. As illustrated in FIG. 8, the exemplary method (800) includes manufacturing (step 801) contact lenses having different powers and geometries. The contact lenses are then packaged (step 802) in primary packaging. Once packaged, the contact lenses can then be grouped (step 803) according to the statistically most common combinations of power and geometry prescribed. These most common combinations can then be packaged together in a secondary packaging step (step 804). Once packaged, the various combinations can then be held in stock until they are printed and shipped (step 805) to the consumer. Further details of the present exemplary method will be provided below.

As mentioned above, the initial step in the exemplary method includes manufacturing the contact lenses including different powers and geometries (step 801). According to one exemplary embodiment, the manufacturing of the contact lenses may be performed according to any known lens manufacturing methods including, but in no way limited to, spin-casting, lathe cutting, or cast molding. According to the present exemplary embodiment, the manufacture of various powers and geometries may be performed in batches for each power and geometry, for efficiency.

Once the contact lenses are manufactured (step 801), the contact lenses are packaged in primary packages (step 802). While the manufactured contact lenses may be stored in any number of primary contact lens packages, according to one exemplary embodiment, the contact lenses are packaged in one of the exemplary primary contact lens packages illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4.

Once packaged in a primary contact lens package (step 802) the primary contact lens packages are grouped according to the statistically most common combinations of power and geometry prescribed by optometrists. Particularly, according to on exemplary embodiment, it is possible to assemble the most frequently prescribed combinations of power and geometry and thereby have sufficient combinations to satisfy the demand of over 98% of the population. This allows a provider to stock and readily locate a left and right contact lens supply for a prescribed contact lens combination. Research suggests that as little as one thousand combinations may be adequate to serve 98 percent of the contact lens wearing population. For example, more than 95,000 people may have a prescription for −3.75 for their right eye and −3.25 for their left. The manufacture may need to only manufacture and stock a relatively small percentage of the total possible combinations in order to fulfill a very high percentage of the orders for contact lenses.

Once the desired lens combinations have been manufactured, packaged in primary contact lens packages, and grouped according to desired combinations, the combinations can be packaged in secondary contact lens cases (step 804). As mentioned previously, the groups of primary contact lens packages can be packaged in any number of secondary contact lens cases, including those illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7.

The groupings of contact lenses contained in secondary contact lens packages can be kept as stock by a manufacturer or distributor until a request for the combination is received (step 805). According to one exemplary embodiment, once a request for a specified combination is received, including a patient's prescription information, the secondary contact lens package can be marked and shipped. The marking of the secondary contact lens case can be marked with the patient specific prescription information using any number of marking methods including, but in no way limited to, printing methods to print the information directly on the secondary contact lens box such as laser printing or dot-matrix printing, the application of a label or other adhesive substrate containing the prescription information, or other similar marking means. Alternatively, the prescription information may be imparted onto the secondary contact lens case during manufacture if a specialized combination of lenses is manufactured for a patient.

The present exemplary system and method allows the manufacture/distributor of contact lenses to increase the convenience of purchasing and wearing contact lenses for the patients. According to the present exemplary system and method, the patient no longer purchases and receives two separate packages when ordering a supply of contact lenses for both eyes. This exemplary method can also decrease costs for the manufacturers. Particularly, shipping both sets of contact lenses in a single box may significantly decrease shipping costs. Manufacturers have not heretofore employed the present method because it was thought to be too difficult to maintain the thousands of different combinations necessary to serve the entire population.

It is therefore an exemplary element of the present exemplary method to only stock a percentage of the possible contact lens combinations, rather than stock the entire range of possible contact lens combinations. In some exemplary embodiments a manufacturer may only stock the combinations of contact lenses necessary to serve approximately 98 percent of the population. Research suggests that as little as one thousand combinations may be adequate to serve 98 percent of the contact lens wearing population.

Exemplary Systems

Referring now to FIG. 9, an exemplary system for providing contact lenses to consumers according to the present exemplary systems and methods is shown. The exemplary system illustrated in FIG. 9 may decrease the costs for the manufacturers and increase the convenience of ordering and using contact lenses for the end users. As shown, contact lenses are first manufactured and packaged in primary packaging (901, 902). The primary packaging may be provided, according to one exemplary embodiment, with a label indicating which eye the contact lens should be placed on. The contact lenses (901, 902) can then pre-loaded into dispensing units (903) if desired. According to one exemplary embodiment, the dispensing units (903) may be configured to securely contain fifteen left contacts (901) and fifteen right contacts (902) in separate compartments. This separation of the contact lenses may add to the overall convenience of the system. The dispensing units (903) may then be packaged in groups of six for example, in a secondary contact lens package (904).

Although the secondary package (906) depicted contains six dispensers (903), it is understood that any number of dispensers (903) may be packaged together, including but not limited to one, three, six, or twelve. The secondary package (906) of the present embodiment also includes a label containing prescription information. This label (906) may serve to reinforce the idea that contact lenses are medical devices and should be treated accordingly. The label (906) may also provide the user with usage information and information about the prescribing doctor. Also located on the secondary package (904) are labels (905) indicating the power of the contact lenses contained within the package (904).

After being labeled, the secondary package may then be shipped or otherwise delivered to the user (907). The effect of providing the user with a single package containing two powers of contact lenses pre-loaded into dispensing units may be to make the purchasing and use of contact lenses more convenient.

In conclusion, the present exemplary system, method, and apparatus provide a more convenient and cost effective way to provide contact lenses to consumers. The inclusion of prescription information on the secondary packaging, and contact lenses for both eyes pre-loaded into dispensers will simplify the purchasing and use of contact lenses. The costs of shipping the contact lenses will also be reduced.

The preceding description has been presented only to illustrate and describe embodiments of the exemplary systems, methods, and apparatus. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the systems and methods to any precise form disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching.