By Amir Khoshnevis, OD
Your words and phrases impact patient compliance. Learn how to communicate eye health recommendations powerfully to convince patients to comply.
Influence Immediate and Long-Term Actions
Effective communication is achieved both by verbal and non-verbal cues such as tone, gesture, posture and eye contact. The words we choose are an essential tool to drive patient understanding and action. I’ve witnessed many doctors making eyecare recommendations with too little awareness of the way they deliver the message. They use vague phrases or remain monotone at an important moment in the conversation.
Too often, the patient has a negative encounter when the issue of compliance arises. They either meet the helpless doctor: “We all know you can wear lenses until they bother you.” Or they get an earful from the frustrated doctor: “If you continue to wear your lenses that way, you may lose your vision!” Or the doctor’s ultimatum: “You must replace your lenses every two weeks if you want me to continue prescribing contact lenses for you.” Fear will only alter a patient’s behavior for a short time. Once they get back to their daily routine, old habits creep in, and the following year, the patient looks for a new eye doctor to avoid the confrontation.
Don’t ask entrapping questions:
“Do you ever sleep in your lenses?”
“Do you ever wear your contacts longer than you’re supposed to?”
A defensive patient gives you the answers you want to hear, therefore our pattern of prescribing does not change. This leads to poor patient understanding, less confidence in the care they receive, and it further erodes the value in the products you prescribed.
Ask the right question (using non-threatening language) to deliver the patient’s preferred wearing schedule, and create a plan that meets their needs.
Ask open, honest questions:
“Ms. Jones, assuming you could wear your lenses any way you wished, how would you wear them?”
“In the perfect world, how would you wear your lenses?”
You often discover the true way the patient is wearing their lenses; some wear them overnight, and often longer than your prescribed wear schedule.
Provide a Solution
A patient who receives a solution to a problem they assumed was “part of the experience” is much more appreciative. The delighted patient places a higher value on your professional opinion, and they are more likely to remain loyal to you, the prescriber. To slow the leaking bucket (declining capture rates of contact lens prescriptions and less frequent exam visits), we must look at our behavior—and our language!–before pointing the finger at patients and the competition.
Are we fueling the fire by being so married to our routines and what suits our needs? Or can we step out of existing patterns and become effective communicators? By using the power of positive language, I believe we can!
Amir Khoshnevis, OD, founded Carolina Family Eye Care in 2003. He is a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and is a member of several optometric associations. He is a presenter at AOA and SECO. Dr. Khoshnevis has a strong interest in specialty contact lenses and has built a medical co-management contact lens practice as well as a clinical investigation site for specialty lenses. To contact him: email@example.com.