Prioritizing Patient Complaints
BY LEDONNA BUCKNER, FCLSA, Richmond, Va.
Contact lens patients, especially new ones, often call my office with questions, particularly when they're having problems with their lenses. I'm fully committed to helping my patients, but I also know we can handle some problems without an office visit. The secret to resolving contact lens problems without losing valuable office time is simple: Telephone triage.
Patients who call me with contact lens-related problems are often upset or panicky. My job is twofold: To reassure them and to try to resolve their problem. Here are some common contact lens complaints and the steps I take to decide if they warrant an office visit.
"Help, my eyes are burning!"
When I hear this complaint, I immediately review the patient's chart to find out what kind of lenses she's wearing and what care products she's using. For example, if a patient uses a hydrogen peroxide-based cleaning system, her eyes may be stinging from unneutralized solution. Removing, rinsing and reapplying the lenses often alleviates the burning sensation.
"My lens is lost in my eye!"
Another common problem that's easily solved over the phone is a decentered contact lens. Some patients, especially new lens wearers, may become agitated and worry that their lens is "somewhere behind the eye." I assure them this is impossible, which usually calms them enough that they can listen to my instructions for recentering and removing the lens.
"Yikes, my lens is falling out!"
Patients complaining of low-level irritation, a feeling that their lens is going to fall out or vision that isn't as clear as usual may have applied their lenses inside-out. I talk these patients through lens removal and reapplication, which usually alleviates their discomfort.
Time for urgent care
The other important aspect of successful telephone triage is recognizing problems requiring immediate attention. Patients complaining of acute redness and pain, photophobia, ocular discharge, halos, hazy vision or vision loss should remove their contact lenses promptly and come to the office for urgent care.
Beyond initial fitting and follow-up, we can offer patients positive contact lens experiences by providing support. Establishing a good telephone triage system helps provide expedient care without stressing office resources.