Patient Experience

How to Diagnose the Patient, Not Their Wallet

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By Justin L. Manning, OD, MPH, FAAO

August 26, 2020

When patients visit your office, what do you and your staff keep as your primary focus? It should be providing patients with all the services and products they need to maintain their eye health and optimize their vision. Here is how you can do that, including the essential role patient financing options with the CareCredit credit card can play in helping patients move forward with the treatment and eyewear you recommend.

Don’t Prejudge a Patient’s Interest in Services & Products
When a patient walks through your office’s front door, avoid making a judgement about them based on how they look, the clothes they wear, the car they drive and other material attributes and possessions. The process of ensuring patients get the best prescriptions for their eye health and vision begins by acknowledging any biases you may have and reminding yourself and your staff that you don’t really know anything about the patient until you get to know them.

Dig Deep In Conversation with the Patient in the Exam Room
The conversation that will tell you who each patient is happens most meaningfully in the one-on-one time the patient has with the doctor in the exam room. Often, the chief complaint a patient presents is not the ultimate problem that needs to be addressed. For instance, I once had a patient who came to us complaining of eye strain and discomfort. We discovered that she was likely suffering from digital eye fatigue, so we prescribed computer glasses as a second pair.

Further conversation revealed that the discomfort she was experiencing was also due to ocular surface disease. If we had not taken the time to fully discuss her symptoms, and conduct a thorough examination, we may have prescribed computer eyewear and left it at that, never addressing the underlying condition.

Educate Staff to Be Able to Meaningfully Engage with Patients
Staff should be trained to have as much understanding of common ocular visual conditions as possible. That means teaching them what ocular surface disease and dry eye is, and what patients with diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration experience. The symptoms of digital eye fatigue should also be discussed with staff. The doctor can point out the kind of questions the staff can ask that will give the doctor in the exam room a head start in determining the best diagnosis and treatment plans. I’m a big proponent of training your technicians to think and operate like you as the doctor.

Having an in-depth conversation may be more effective than paperwork when assessing patients’ lifestyle needs. Staff should be educated on how best to ask about work and hobbies, including how to ask follow-up questions if patients give simple “yes” or “no” answers. For example, if a patient says they don’t spend significant time outdoors, they may be assuming that the staff member is asking if they do an organized sport or hobby outside. Without the staff member’s prodding, they may not consider that the long walks around a lake, or by the shore, with the sun reflecting off the water, also count as significant outdoor time.

Staff should understand that when you prescribe premium products like prescription polarized sunglasses for that patient on her long walks, or single-use contact lenses, that you are doing it to meet the needs they have helped you to uncover; and not because you want to increase practice revenues.

Ask Symptom-Based Questions
Both staff during patient intake, and doctor in the exam room, should ask symptom-based questions to ensure the patient’s true needs are met. For instance, that means asking if patients have blurred vision when working on the computer for long hours, how soon they want to take their contact lenses out each day and asking, not whether they are experiencing any problems with their contacts, but, “Do you love your contact lenses?” It’s amazing what you’ll uncover when patients can’t answer yes to loving their lenses.

Change Your Patients’ Lives
With patient financing through the CareCredit credit card, you can help patients move forward with the treatments and products that will make the greatest positive impact.

I had a patient who came into the specialty contact lens clinic I founded specifically because we accepted CareCredit. She had had cornea surgery and was experiencing poor vision. She was terrified of trying scleral contact lenses because she was worried about having a bad outcome and being let down.

We were able to help ease her concerns as well as offer her special financing options with the use of her CareCredit credit card to help fit the cost into her budget. The scleral lenses turned out to be immediately life-altering for the patient, who noticed with delight as she stepped outside from our office, that she could see the street signs clearly and even the mountains in the distance.

We were able to change that patient’s life by listening to her , learning who she was and what she needed, prescribing the right solution to her unique challenges–and then–thanks to patient financing through CareCredit– helping fit care into her budget.

Justin L. Manning, OD, MPH, FAAO, is executive vice-president for professional strategies at Healthy Eyes Advantage. To contact him: JManningOD@hea2020.com

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions are the sole opinions of the Justin Manning. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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