contact lens practice pearls
The Helpful Handout
BY THOMAS G. QUINN, OD, MS, FAAO
You know the look: That blank stare you get when a patient just doesn't get it. When verbal communication fails, the written word can often bail you out. Handouts to the rescue! Many manufacturers provide informational brochures that can prove immensely helpful. But, if you want a customized touch, here are some ideas on how to develop your own handout.
The Information Station
Above all, a useful handout informs. Begin the development process by narrowing down your topic. Consider the astigmatic patient interested in contact lens correction. Possible modes of treatment include a spherical GP lens, a toric GP lens, a toric soft lens, an aspheric soft lens or possibly even a spherical soft contact lens. A handout that discusses all of these options would probably overwhelm the patient and cause confusion. Instead, develop a handout on each of the above designs. Don't worry. They all follow the same basic layout, so the task is quite manageable.
Apply your knowledge of the patient and the contact lens options available. Make a verbal recommendation, then ask your assistant to present the handout discussing your suggested design.
Reinforce Your Verbal Message
The handout should repeat and then expand on the benefits you discussed when presenting your recommendation. This serves to reinforce your message as well as to provide additional information.
Don't try to impress your patients by spouting out "modulus of elasticity" and "oxygen transmissibility." These words don't impress, they mess up the window of clarity you're trying to create for the patient.
Features vs. Benefits
Another reason to avoid "oxygen transmissibility" is because it describes a lens feature. The benefit of this feature is healthier contact lens wear. Use your ink on the benefits -- they're what captivate the prospective wearer.
The Ideal Candidate?
Outline lens and patient characteristics that match up well.
For example, on a handout discussing single-use (one day disposable) lenses, you might mention how these lenses are particularly convenient for patients who have a fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle. You might also mention that they're great for patients who are sensitive to contact lens care products. Patients will often project themselves into these descriptions, adding to their desire to pursue the recommended approach.
Show Me the Money!
List the fees associated with your contact lens fitting, follow up and materials for the recommended contact lens type. Remove all ambiguity regarding money matters so that, in the event that one of your patients might attempt to dispute a fee, all you need to do is point to the handout. If you ever elect to modify a fee for a special case, then write it directly on the handout, date it and give it to the patient, but keep a photocopy in his chart for your own documentation.
Of course, always discuss fees with your patient before you actually begin any contact lens fitting process.
I know you have mountains of information you want to impart to your prospective contact lens candidate, but limit your handout to one side of a single sheet. This concise approach makes the information more digestible for the patient and forces you to limit your information to the most important points.
Informative and Customized
Designing your own informational handout gives you the power to say what you want to say to patients exactly how you want to say it. Try it. You'll like it, and your patients will, too.
Dr. Quinn is in group practice in Athens, Ohio, and has served as a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.