HOW NOT TO TALK TO PATIENTS
BY MARY JAMESON, BHS, CPOT, COA, NCLC, Elkins Park, Pa.
The words we use when talking to patients can make a lasting impression. Sometimes, we get so accustomed to using jargon with our colleagues, we forget that most eyecare terms aren't "patient friendly," inadvertently intimidating or embarrassing patients. Feeling excluded, or afraid of appearing "dumb," a patient may be too shy to ask important questions that can help him make an informed treatment decision.
Instead of "talking down" to patients, try using language to create a sense of partnership. Appro-priate substitutions include:
- Automatic focus for accommodation
- Nearsighted for myopia
- Farsighted for hyperopia.
Other concepts are more difficult to explain, but descriptive comparisons often help patients understand complicated conditions. For example, I tell my patients with astigmatism that the fronts of their eyes are shaped more like a football than a basketball.
And some words just sound nicer than others. Which would you rather wear, hard contact lenses or gas permeable lenses?
Patients are happier when they're actively involved in their health care, so it makes sense to choose language that helps them understand their options.