Mark Schaeffer, OD
Dry eye therapies change patients’ lives and add significantly to practice profitability. First, however, you must impress upon patients the importance of these treatments. Here is how to do this–and make treatments more accessible to patients.
Relate Scientific Information to What Patient Is Experiencing
When educating the patient, provide the diagnosis by telling the whole story either through pictures, tests, or dynamic imaging so that the condition ties into symptoms and problems the patient is having. This creates an important connection between the disease state and the treatment itself. When patients understand the role of each prescribed treatment, they can better manage their own disease.
Using analogies, stories, or other ways, to relate to our patients creates a common language. Patients won’t remember words such as “thermal pulsation.”
Let patients know that those tired, itchy, or irritated eyes, which become increasingly uncomfortable after a long day staring at the computer, feel the way they do due to the dry eye you have diagnosed–and that the treatments you are recommending are likely to offer relief.
Use Staff Role-Play Exercises to Ready Employees for Patient Education
When the whole practice consistently communicates, everyone wins. Role-play is an interactive time to shape the correct language.
For example, one staff member would act as a patient newly diagnosed with dry eye, who is now working with staff to schedule appointments for follow-up care and buy products in the office for at-home care. Another staff member would demonstrate in a safe environment what they would say to a patient in this position, including possibly how they would answer typical patient questions. Some questions to include are how much time the at-home treatments will require and why it’s important that they follow-through with the doctor’s recommendation for the in-office treatments.
Cost is a common patient question, as many dry eye procedures are not covered, or only partially covered, by insurance. If your practice offers financing via the CareCredit credit card, you can also have staff members practice how they would explain the opportunity to spread out payments over time, rather than pay all at once.
Role-play should be a live interaction. Avoid having participants use phrases such as “I’d say…” or “I’d ask…” but rather commit to actually playing a role. In addition to staff practicing on each other, bringing in non-staff members to play the role of the patient is a great way to simulate what it will be like in real time. The more realistic the situation, the better the staff will get. Let the whole conversation finish before starting with feedback to mimic day-to-day scenarios. Offer feedback to your staff in a positive way. Open the floor to your staff to share their opinions about what went well in each presentation and what could be better.
Ensure Consistent Messaging By Using Scripts
Once you and your staff hone your message, document it in scripts. These scripts can be saved to a place online, such as a Word or Google Document, that doctors and support staff can quickly access, so they become an on-demand job aid. Also, as new technology continues to be added to the practice, it gives everyone the opportunity to get on the same page.
Within reason, allow all team members to make the dialogue their own while also maintaining scripts to serve as a backup in case you have new members of the team or if you start hearing the messaging veer off track. The right positioning of your dry eye therapies and staff involvement are keys to your success. Without strategy and support, there is no structure–and less chance of your patients getting the treatments they need.
Click HERE to go into depth, with help from Patti Barkey, COE, Chief Administrative Officer, Bowden Eye & Associates, Jacksonville, Fla., on how best to present dry eye diagnoses and treatments to patients.