How eye doctors can target outreach and education to higher-risk patients
It’s human nature to care more about things that affect us personally. That’s why eye doctors are beginning to understand the importance of taking a personalized approach to educating patients. This is especially important with certain diseases like glaucoma. While glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss in the U.S., it typically has no symptoms at first. In fact, half of people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it.
Recent studies have shown that earlier screening – particularly in higher risk groups – could significantly increase the chance of detecting glaucoma and slowing down progression. Also, the management of the glaucoma has undergone a transformation, with new treatments and surgeries.
Make sure you’re reaching the patients who are most affected by glaucoma. Here’s how.
Who’s at risk?
Given that untreated glaucoma results in faster progression and can cause permanent vision loss, it’s imperative to encourage early detection, particularly in patient populations at higher risk. As eye doctors know, but patients and their families may not, glaucoma affects the following groups more frequently:
People of color. New research found that African heritage was a risk factor for glaucoma blindness. While it was already known that glaucoma is up to four times more common in African-American people than in those of European ancestry, researchers said they suspect the disease begins one to two decades earlier in Black people than in other ethnic and racial groups – emphasizing the need for earlier screening to prevent disease progression and blindness.
Patients of Hispanic/Latino and Asian backgrounds are also at higher risk for glaucoma, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Research shows Black patients are more likely to lose vision as a result of glaucoma; earlier screening is advised.
Older people. The risk of glaucoma has been shown to increase predominantly with age. According to the National Eye Institute, that includes everyone over age 60, and patients over 40 of certain races, as mentioned above.
People with a family history of glaucoma. Patients may volunteer this information, or you may have to ask them specifically if they have any relatives who have glaucoma.
People with current pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obstructive sleep apnea.
People with other eye conditions, such as myopia, hyperopia, eye tumors or eye injuries may have a higher risk of glaucoma.
People facing socioeconomic barriers to care. Insurance eligibility, education, income, marital status, and access to technology “can deeply impact the diagnosis and long-term treatment of glaucoma patients,” according to a review published in Current Ophthalmology Reports. Researchers noted that many individuals who face these barriers forgo annual eye exams, leading to a higher incidence of untreated glaucoma.
Sharing this video on your social media pages, email newsletters, and in your waiting room can help raise awareness about who’s at risk of glaucoma.
What can eye doctors do?
Make sure your patient education reflects the patients you’re trying to reach. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Consider representation. Does your patient education feature people who look like your patients? If you’re trying to reach diverse or aging patients, make sure your videos or brochures include these populations.
Address health literacy. As mentioned above, socioeconomic factors like education can be barriers to care. Beyond that, more than half of the population is thought to be visual learners, who retain health information better by seeing pictures and videos, like Rendia’s.
Patient education on glaucoma is necessary for treatment adherence; only 29% of patients could accurately define glaucoma.
Explain clearly to increase adherence. Patient surveys found most believe managing their glaucoma is too much of a hassle for something that’s not affecting them currently. The incentive to manage glaucoma is minimal if patients don’t fully understand their diagnosis. The research published in Current Ophthalmology Reports found that only 29% of patients surveyed could accurately define glaucoma. Rendia can help show patients how glaucoma affects their vision, and the importance of sticking to their treatment plan.
Encourage regular eye exams. “Patient education is the key to long-term glaucoma prevention and management of treatment,” concluded the researchers of this study. In particular, it’s important for those who have an increased risk of developing glaucoma to have a comprehensive examination by an eye care professional – the sooner, the better.