From myopia to contact lens care, engage patients in ongoing care even during COVID-19
In our last post, Dr. Paul Karpecki discussed the growing prevalence of myopia among young people. The number of school-aged children affected was already growing at an alarming rate before COVID-19. Myopia also currently affects nearly half of all young adults in the U.S. and Europe.
In many states, people have spent more than a month quarantined indoors. Schools in at least 23 states are closed for the rest of the year, reported ABC News, and many states have transitioned to online learning. Most parents are more concerned about protecting their children from COVID-19 than about the risks to their children’s eyes. That’s where eye doctors come in, and why you need to be proactive about patient education and outreach.
As a health care provider, your role during this time is to educate your patients and their parents, remind them to adopt or continue good health habits, and encourage them to schedule appointments once your office resumes performing routine care.
If you have shared the myopia video we mentioned in our last post with your patients or their parents, they already know that spending a significant amount of time indoors at a young age can impact the eye’s development, causing issues that can threaten vision if not managed properly over time.
Emphasize to parents that they are not to blame for allowing more screen time than usual during this global pandemic. We are all doing our best to adapt to our “new normal.” Reassure them that there are things they can do to protect their children’s eye health. In the short term, simple things like getting outside more, for a walk or bike ride, can make a difference. In the longer term, a comprehensive eye exam is crucial to diagnose any problems and treat them proactively.
If parents are concerned about whether leaving the house during COVID-19 is safe, direct them toward this April 17 New York Times article in which frequently asked reader questions are answered by infectious disease experts, aerosol scientists, and microbiologists. According to the article, “Your chances of catching the virus when you go outdoors is extremely low, provided you’re keeping a safe distance from others.”
Encourage patients to schedule future eye exams now, since early intervention is the best way to diagnose myopia and any other vision issues.
Your message to parents should also be that early intervention is the best way to diagnose myopia and any other vision issues. It’s important to explain to parents that you have new treatments available that may slow the progression of myopia–if it’s caught early. Encourage them to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for their child. Even if you’re uncertain when you’ll be able to return to routine care, getting an appointment in the books now is the surest way to make your patients feel taken care of even if your practice is temporarily closed or only taking urgent patients. It also ensures that your practice has a full appointment schedule when you do reopen.
Other ways to engage patients now and in the near future
Here are some other opportunities to engage and serve patients, now and after things start to stabilize.
Screen-related eye strain. Studies have shown that most U.S. consumers are very concerned about eye strain related to the use of digital devices. Eye care providers may be missing the opportunity to address this with their patients, however: one study found that more than 60 percent of contact lens wearers and glasses wearers were interested in talking to their eye care providers about ways to reduce eye strain, but only 6 percent had. If you haven’t brought this up with your patients, now’s the perfect time to share this video:
Encourage patients to schedule a future appointment to discuss how you can provide them with customized computer glasses that include an anti-reflective coating and a blue-light screening component that protects against UV radiation and the blue light emitted by electronic devices, which can disrupt sleep and even lead to macular degeneration.
Let patients know that there are a variety of ways you can help them now–with digital eye strain, dry eye disease, and contact lens care–and encourage them to schedule appointments for when your practice resumes preventive care.
Dry eye disease. As many as half of all U.S. adults experience dry eye signs and symptoms, which include watery, itchy, or burning eyes, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision that significantly impacts their quality of life. However, many of these patients may not be aware that their symptoms have a name or solution.
Let patients know that there are a variety of ways your practice can help dry eye sufferers manage their symptoms, such as eyelid cleansing pads, artificial tears, nutritional supplements, and the Bruder Moist Heat Eye Compress, explained in this video. Invite patients to schedule a consultation now for when your practice reopens.
Contact lens care. Your patients who wear contact lenses may be frightened or concerned about news reports warning that they are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Reassure patients that the risk isn’t significant as long as they are washing their hands properly and consistently and practicing good lens hygiene.
Contact lens wearers can benefit from our short educational videos that discuss best practices for lens care and proper hygiene. Direct patients to your website or email them videos, such as “Success with Contact Lenses.” And to remind patients that they should only buy from a verified source and not online, consider sharing “Only Buy Contacts from Eye Care Provider” through an email newsletter or on social media. Lastly, make sure patients know that eye pain, blurred vision, redness, or discomfort are not normal and that they should remove their lenses and contact you so that you can work together to find a better option.
By now, most businesses are emerging from crisis mode and focused on planning to resume post-COVID-19 services. Practices should continue to be proactive about communicating with patients, educating them about issues of concern, and scheduling appointments for now or in the near future.