Tips and videos for timely patient education and outreach
Over the past year, many patients have postponed routine checkups in order to limit their risk of contracting COVID-19. Some of them may assume that if they don’t have any symptoms, they must be fine. But when it comes to eye health and vision, eye doctors know that’s a dangerous and false assumption.
March is Save Your Vision Month, a national observance sponsored by the American Optometric Association (AOA). It’s the perfect time to remind your patients and the public of the importance of eye health and comprehensive eye exams.
Patients’ ‘blind spots’ when it comes to eye health
Studies show there is a significant gap between what people think they know about eye health and what they actually know. While 81 percent of the U.S. adults in a recent survey said they were “knowledgeable” about eye health, the survey results did not back up that claim.
The majority of people don’t know that vision loss is not always preceded by symptoms.
- Less than 1 in 5 were able to identify the three main causes of blindness in the U.S.: glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic eye disease.
- Only 37 percent were aware that you don’t always experience symptoms before losing vision.
- More than half (53 percent) were unaware that vision loss and blindness do not affect all people equally.
In fact, as eye doctors know, many causes of vision loss have no symptoms, and certain patient populations have a higher risk for eye diseases like glaucoma and myopia. The message to patients is that regular checkups with a trained eye care professional are the best way to detect diseases and prevent vision loss.
Be sure to let patients know if you are offering telehealth appointments. In some cases, this may be a good way for you to continue to serve patients while accommodating their preferences or schedules.
Dry eye: an opportunity for eye doctors
While some people may have canceled routine eye appointments, others are seeking out eye doctors with new or worsening symptoms during this time. For instance, dry eye is on the rise during the pandemic, as more people have switched to remote work and learning and are spending longer hours on screens and less time outdoors. As eye doctors know, we tend to blink less often while using a computer, which can cause eye dryness and irritation
Callout: Be proactive in your patient education and outreach to attract the growing number of dry eye sufferers who may not know their symptoms have a name or solution.
Proactive outreach and ongoing patient education is a smart approach to reaching the growing number of dry eye sufferers in the U.S. They may not be aware that their symptoms have a name or a solution, or that there are new treatments available. Addressing the needs of dry eye patients is a great way to attract loyal patients who have been overlooked or misdiagnosed.
On your website, social media pages or in emails to patients, share some simple eye exercises that can help with eye strain and focus fatigue, such as:
- The 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object roughly 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.
- Close your eyes and roll them up, down, and around in one direction and then the other.
- Try a “facepalm.” Rub your hands together, then gently cup your palms over your closed eyelids for a few minutes.
For more eye-friendly exercises, share our Rendia video, Healthy Daily Habits for Computer Users.
Healthy eye habits to share with patients
People are more concerned about their health now more than ever. New habits such as more rigorous hand-washing and wearing face masks in public have become widely adopted. Piggyback on these examples by reinforcing healthy behaviors that benefit the eyes and vision. Encourage your patients to:
- Wear sunglasses, even in winter. Protect eyes from damaging rays with 100% UV-blocking glasses.
- Eat nutritious foods. Many people have heard the rumor that carrots help you see in the dark. While that may not be 100 percent true, carrots and other vegetables rich in Vitamin A do contain nutrients that contribute to good eye health, as do leafy greens like spinach and kale, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon and tuna.
- Practice good contact lens habits. As many as 99 percent of contact lens wearers reported at least one hygiene behavior that puts them at increased risk of eye infection or inflammation. Share this video to promote safety and encourage patients to come to you for their contact lens related needs.
Let patients know that eye health has far-reaching ramifications. Good vision is important in children so they can learn and develop in and out of school. Eyesight impacts older adults’ ability to drive safely, participate in their favorite activities, maintain their independence, and avoid the isolation and depression that often accompanies vision loss. Healthy eyes and vision are important for everyone at every age.
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