The Business of Contact Lenses
There Are No Silly Questions
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Recently, I picked up a relative from a surgery center after a minor elective procedure. I was escorted to the recovery room. Since the patient was still a little groggy coming out of the anesthesia, the recovery room nurse asked, “If I review the post-op instructions with you, can you relay them to the patient once you get home?” I said, “Of course.”
I was then handed a copy of a copy of a copy of something that most likely originated in a Smith Corona Typewriter (younger readers—Google it!). The nurse said, “Page one has all the restrictions for the post-op diet for the first five days. The second page talks about the permitted levels of physical activity. The last page has all of the medication instructions. Do you have any questions?”
I quickly scanned the information, which seemed pretty self-explanatory and straightforward. “No questions. Seems pretty obvious. Thanks,” I replied.
When I got home and read it in more detail, I did have some questions. For example, I wondered whether I could substitute yogurt for ice cream. Was ice cream listed under soft foods only because it was soft or because it was cold? Or, was it because it had sugar, which may have made it easier to swallow? Not wanting to call the office and be perceived as an inept caretaker—especially after I said, “Seems pretty obvious”— I decided it probably wasn’t that big a deal and substituted the yogurt.
New Contact Lens Wearers
This event sent my practice management brain to examine the experiences that a new contact lens wearer faces. With that, I present you five things to consider.
1. Presentation Matters First, it’s 2015. Copies of copies are unacceptable. And for some practices, even paper may be unacceptable and anachronistic.
2. Personalize Information Next, regardless of the instructions you give patients for things like care solution, wearing schedules, or when to return, keep in mind that if your practice values espouse anything remotely related to “personalized care,” and everyone gets the same information sheet, the same email, or is directed to the same web page (even if these contain clinically accurate and appropriate information), then “personalized” just became less so.
3. Have Staff Go the Extra Mile Next, to counter the above, have your staff go beyond simply asking, “Do you have any questions?” Instead, they should go through each specific point. “Do you have any questions about how to take care of your lenses?” “Do you understand why you shouldn’t use tap water with your lenses?” This helps add to the inherent lack of personalization when you use a pre-printed document. And, it also encourages questions.
It is also worth considering “customizing” patient handouts with the patients’ name, specific lenses, care instructions, and follow-up information. While that too will obviously appear to be computer-generated, at least it demonstrates that you took some time to create it for them.
4. Provide Answers Before Questions Arise Don’t let patients guess like I did. If you don’t tell them that solution A is different from solution B, they’ll substitute yogurt for ice cream. (I confess that eventually I was neurotic enough to call the doctor’s office to be sure, and, in my case, it was OK.)
5. All Questions Have Merit This brings me to my absolute last point. Don’t ever make fun of your patients, directly or indirectly, for asking questions—no matter how inconsequential you think they may be! A patient may ask, “Does the color of the contact lens case matter?” As an eyecare practitioner, I can’t think of a single reason why it would (if it does, someone please correct me). But, to a microbiologist who studies the growth of undersea organisms that flourish in darkness, it’s a perfectly legit question.
Yogurt or ice cream? What’s the difference? Saline or saliva? What’s the difference? CLS
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.