Article Date: 11/1/2012

Contact Lens Practice Pearls
Contact Lens Practice Pearls

Communication Can Build Patient Loyalty

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BY GREGORY J. NIXON, OD, FAAO

For eyecare practitioners, loyalty means patients devoting the care of their eyes to a practitioner or practice. Developing patient loyalty is the lifeblood of a practice. Loyal patients not only return for the care of their eyes, they refer new patients as well.

So, how do you develop loyal patients? Obviously, patients should receive comprehensive care with contemporary equipment and receive products that provide clear and comfortable vision. But patients often need more to feel valued and to gain trust in their practitioner.

What You Say Really Matters

Since we began utilizing optometric assistants as scribes in the exam room, patients hear a lot of technical jargon as we communicate our exam findings. After hearing words like telangiectasia, meibomian inspissation, or limbal phlyctenule, patients are impressed by the amount of detailed knowledge necessary to take care of their eyes. But more often it is the less technical communication that makes the most impact on patients. For example, I have found that one of the best ways to aid patient understanding of some aspects of contact lens care is to make analogies to everyday scenarios to which they can relate.

A case in point, I recently had a new patient present to my office who was previously fit with specialty GP lenses after corneal refractive surgery. Although she had a relatively successful fit, she decided to leave her previous practice because her practitioner never took the time to explain anything. In that office, she had multiple visits and a few re-orders of lenses. This scenario is quite typical for a postsurgical fitting on an irregular cornea, but since no expectations of the fitting process were explained to her, she was aggravated and had the impression that, “he knows my prescription, so why can’t he get my contact lenses right?”

Overall her lenses fit fairly well, but not optimally. The lenses exhibited decentration, resulting in lens awareness and nighttime vision complaints. While improving her fit was going to be relatively easy, I knew that it was more important for her to gain a better understanding of the fitting process. I gave her the analogy that when you buy a pair of pants, many styles can be marked with your exact waist and length measurements but don’t fit well at all. The design of the pants needs to match the body’s contours to fit well and feel comfortable. In some cases, people can’t “buy off the rack” and need to have clothes altered or custom made. Similarly, many contact lenses could have her prescription’s measurements, but matching the contours of her irregularly shaped eye would require a custom lens that might need to be altered a few times.

Admittedly, this analogy is a little corny—but it was something to which she could immediately relate. After just one minute of explanation, she was completely at ease and understood her situation, stating that “nobody took the time to explain that to me before.” I started the refit process at that visit by using a large-diameter intralimbal GP lens that centered perfectly, was comfortable, and provided clear, crisp vision with over-refraction.

Acquiring a Loyal Patient

I’m confident that the eventual final contact lenses will be a significant improvement over her previous fit. But the key was taking just a moment to provide an explanation that helped gain her trust—and apparently her loyalty, too. She not only ordered new lenses, she scheduled a family member. CLS

Dr. Nixon is a professor of clinical optometry and director of extern programs at The Ohio University College of Optometry. He is also in a group private practice in Westerville, Ohio. He is on the Allergan Academic Advisory Board, the B+L Advisory Board, and the Alcon Speakers Bureau. You can reach him at gnixon@optometry.osu.edu.


Contact Lens Spectrum, Volume: 27 , Issue: November 2012, page(s): 47