EDUCATE PATIENTS ON RED EYE CARE BEFORE THEY NEED YOUR HELP
I WOULD be willing to bet most of you who are actively involved in clinical practice have patients who truly enjoy and appreciate the care you give. Many are loyal, not thinking they would go anywhere else for their regular, comprehensive eye exams.
Then. . . your stomach clenches in exasperation when your staff tells you a long-standing patient is coming in to see you because his red eye hasn’t gone away after he visited the local minute clinic. Why, oh why, didn’t he think of you in the first place?
Consider the following ideas to help patients think of you as their primary option for red eye care.
BECOME A CLOSER
I’m a closer. Yes, I believe in the good, strong close of every patient encounter, appointment or chance run-in. I may sound like a broken record, but for those of you with kids, you know that something sometimes needs to be repeated 100 times before it sinks in. The same, my friend, applies to our patients. They may hear your words, “Remember, come and see us if you have any red, irritated, painful eyes, as we see patients all the time for those problems,” but, it just doesn’t sink in because maybe they think, “Yeah, but that’s never happened to me. . .” and out the other ear it goes. So then, I repeat. And, as much as you hate for your patients to have unresolved red-eye issues, those are the patients most likely to come and see you the next time the condition pops up.
SHARE WITH YOUR STAFF
So, what else can be done besides the once-yearly verbal volley? First, make sure your staff understands how to triage and what it is you do treat in the office. What I have found most helpful, as well, is to share with the staff what the problem actually was for the red eye patient.
A large percentage of patients call the office claiming “pink eye” when, in fact, they have allergies, or inflammation, or dry eye. I think it’s important for staff to know the outcome of their diligent scheduling so they can speak with conviction to patients in the future.
ENCOURAGE THE ONE-TIME VISIT
Oftentimes, a patient is rather sheepish when coming in for the “second opinion” visit with you, their primary eye care provider. Convenience, or health-care shopping, is sometimes the impetus for the initial decision to go “generic” on their red eye diagnosis.
I gently remind patients that the inconvenience of the second appointment, time spent suffering, cost of not one, but two, visits plus, oftentimes, having to discard ineffective ophthalmic drugs for the new, correct medication, far outweighs what would have, and, oftentimes, should have, been a one-time visit to my office. It’s a lesson that usually needs to be taught only once.
With health care changes on the horizon, we will continue to see the rise of convenience-made and price-influenced decisions. Use these times as opportunities to educate your patients on red-eye management, hopefully, before they need your rescuing. OM