Taking A History: It's Not Just Filling in the Blanks!

Taking A History: It's Not Just Filling in the Blanks!

When recommending a contact lens modality and lens care system to a patient, the more information eyecare practitioners have, the better. But what's the best way to collect this information?

In addition to using routine medical history questionnaires, take the time to interview your patients. One-on-one interaction may take more time initially, but talking with patients gives you an opportunity to ask questions that can save future chair time. Here are some questions I ask my patients.

When's your birthday? Asking patients for their birth date tells me much more than numbers on a page, particularly when I'm dealing with older individuals. If my mental calculations reveal that a patient is approaching presbyopia, I casually ask him if he's having difficulty with near tasks or if his eyes feel fatigued after reading for a long time. Depending on his answer, I can begin educating him about the lens options that address these problems. Because I'm basing this discussion on our conversation instead of making assumptions about their age, my patients tend to accept my suggestions more readily.

Historical accuracy. Few patients realize that past medical history is relevant to fitting contact lenses. If they ask why I need to know if they take diuretics or if they have Sjögrens syndrome, I tell them how this information helps eyecare practitioners determine the contact lens modality that's best for them. By avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, you'll let your patients know that you care about their personal needs -- a detail they're sure to notice and appreciate.

Favorite pastimes. What do hobbies have to do with contact lenses? Hearing how patients spend their time gives me an opportunity to describe new contact lens materials that hold moisture longer and are healthier for their eyes. Today's patients appreciate new technology and often want to be on the cutting edge. They'll respect a technician who can tell them about the newest products.

Make it personal

The information I collect using verbal patient histories isn't unique. What's unique is how talking with patients gives me more insight into their requirements. But most importantly, asking individualized questions helps include patients in the contact lens process, and makes them feel like they're participating in their eye care.