Article Date: 4/1/2006

Reach for the Good News
Patients often need motivation to get through the day. You can help.

Recently, a financial planner tried to sell his services to me and my wife. After looking over the family records, he offered his blunt prognosis: "Based on your earnings, savings and your desire to put your five children through college, I don't see how you're going to reach the retirement goals we recommend. But I'd still like you to consider my services."

He didn't sell us. My wife and I are confident we can miss our goals without his help. We decided to go with a planner who was qualified, familiar with our specific situation and upbeat in his assessment.

It's about motivation

Our decision was swayed not only by expertise, but also because the planner used good news to motivate us. Healthcare providers often face a similar issue. A physician might recommend an ideal weight for a patient. If the patient misses the goal, the doctor can offer one of two responses. First, the patient failed to achieve the set goal (bad news) or second, the patient is healthier because she did lose weight (good news).

A parallel example in eye care would be the case of a patient whose IOP drops from 35mm Hg to 17mm Hg, although 12mm Hg was the target. The primary care optometrist can present the patient with good news — that the significant drop in IOP is an improvement — or the bad news that the patient did not reach the targeted IOP.

The right message is the one that will motivate the patient to continue with the chosen course of therapy. A compliant patient will most likely be receptive to other therapies that may lower IOP even further, if that is the treatment the doctor prescribes. In this instance, does the doctor provide any value by sharing his frustrations over the missed target? (While warnings and bad news can be effective, research concludes that these are most effective when used sparingly.)

Let the patient help

Aside from the goals set by doctors, patients also think in terms of targets, whether it's IOP or 20/20 vision. These targets may be based on the recommendations of friends and family as well as advertising and other forms of marketing/education. Assuming that they're realistic, these targets can provide another source of motivation for the doctor to draw on in patient communications.

Whether it's returning for exams, visiting specialists, following a specific care regimen, or maintaining compliance, patients often need a shot of motivation. At these times, it's good to be able to count on you, the optometrist.

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2006