See more patients this year by being proactive about education
As we head into the new year, it’s a good time to focus on reframing some common eyecare misconceptions through patient education. A 2021 survey from Johnson & Johnson Vision found that while 86% of the world’s adult population say losing their vision is their greatest fear, 70% reported that they don’t plan to have their eyes examined.
Where’s the disconnect? Here’s a look at some common eye health assumptions and misconceptions that you can clear up for current patients on your website and in your office, as well as prospective patients on your social media channels and in your outreach efforts.
1. “I don’t need an eye exam if my vision is fine.”
The survey found that many people believe that if they’re not experiencing problems with their vision, they don’t need an eye exam. Another 20% weren’t even aware that an eye exam could support their general health.
Some 20% of patients aren’t aware that an eye exam can support their overall health. Yet eye doctors diagnosed 400,000 patients with diabetes in one year.
What eye doctors know that patients may not is that the eye provides a good deal of information about a patient’s overall health. “A thorough exam can spot serious problems such as diabetes, lupus, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration,” explained John Lahr, M.D., medical director with EyeMed Vision Care. In 2017, optometrists diagnosed more than 400,000 patients with diabetic retinopathy who did not even know they had diabetes. Tell patients that regular eye exams can help catch these problems earlier and avoid serious complications.
2. “My primary care physician can do an eye exam for me at my annual physical.”
Patients may favor the convenience of having their primary care doctor conduct an eye exam, but they may not realize that primary care physicians are not always equipped with the tools needed to diagnose specific eye diseases. And with 11 million Americans over the age of 12 needing vision correction, seeing an eye doctor is now more important than ever. Reinforce the importance of seeing an eye doctor by presenting friendly patient messages around general health and wellness throughout your practice.
In some cases, patients may not know that most preventative eye care services, such as annual exams and vision testing, are often covered by their insurance plans. Place information about insurance coverage and financing options in areas that are easily available to patients both in and outside your practice.
3. “Online vision tests are fine.”
Understandably, many people have safety concerns amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and may opt out of in-person doctor’s appointments. With many companies offering online vision tests taken on computers or smartphones, patients may not know that these tests can’t replace an in-person eye exam with a trained professional.
Let patients know that these tests are generally designed for people who already have an eyeglasses prescription that is not very strong. Online exams or apps can’t evaluate the health of your eyes or determine if you have a condition that can threaten your sight, like cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. Additionally, most lenses need to be professionally prescribed and adjusted in order to get the most benefit from them.
Let patients know that online vision tests can’t replace an in-person exam with a trained eye care professional. Promote virtual or hybrid visits if you offer them.
If you do offer telehealth, virtual care or hybrid services, promote that fact. Many practices are finding success by integrating technology into patient care before and after office visits, or using a hybrid appointment model. Hybrid telehealth refers to the combination of care options that involve both in-person care as well as virtual consultation and care services.
4. “Glasses are my only option to improve my vision.”
Another interesting statistic from the Johnson & Johnson Vision survey is that nearly 30% of respondents were more concerned with how their eyes look than the health of their eyes. Let patients know that an eye care professional can help their eyes look their best, whether by helping them choose the right frames for their face, fitting them for contact lenses or performing refractive surgery.
Some 44% of U.S. respondents said they prefer wearing contact lenses over surgery or wearing glasses. Yet more than half the respondents didn’t realize that there are multifocal contact lenses. The message to these patients could be, “Here’s an alternative to glasses that may help you see and look better.”
5. “Eye surgery is scary and dangerous.”
Speaking of surgery, 70% of survey respondents who had cataract surgery said if they had known how much better they would see postoperatively, they would have had the surgery sooner. You can help patients avoid these regrets by reassuring them that cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the United States — and one of the safest. Of course, as with any surgery, risks do exist and you should discuss these with patients before the procedure.
Reassure them that thanks to technological advances, cataract surgery has come a long way. Sharing educational videos that can be accessed online and shared with loved ones or caregivers can be an effective way to educate patients. For more on this topic, see Five Cataract Myths to Clear Up for Your Patients.
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