Insights From Our Editors

How well do you communicate to patients that they need an annual eye exam?

April 20, 2016

Let’s start with some resources that have attempted to state the case for annual eye exams.

Ed Zimney, MD, writes an article citing four reasons to get your eyes checked even if you see perfectly: glaucoma, high blood pressure, diabetes, and macular degeneration.[i] He focuses on asymptomatic diseases which can be discovered during an eye exam.

VSP has a webpage: “Are Annual Eye Exams Really Necessary?” Here are three of the opening paragraphs.

“Most of us get our car serviced annually to make sure it runs smoothly. We also visit a dentist regularly to get our teeth cleaned. But how many of us get our eyes checked each year?”

“Many people wait until they notice a change in their vision to see a doctor. But eye problems are often silent–meaning they have no symptoms, and this can be dangerous to the person who is waiting to see a change.”

“A recent study found that one-in-four adults hadn’t had an eye exam in the past two years, and the same proportion was unaware that an eye exam could prevent them from losing their sight. Even if you’ve had laser vision surgery or have naturally good vision, you still need an annual eye exam.”[ii]

Only a small minority of those most at risk get yearly eye exams.[iii] A survey commissioned by Lighthouse International and reported in an article titled Tending to Your Eyes by Karen Barrow states that 86 percent of people who already have an eye disease do not get routine eye exams. The article says, “Poor vision can lead to job loss, social difficulties and the pain and cost of falls and accidents.”

Jane Brody, in an article titled What We’re Not Looking After: Our Eyes, highlights a documentary produced by Joe Lovett called Going Blind: Coming Out of the Dark about Vision Loss. Mr. Lovett features six people whose vision was destroyed or severely impaired by disease or injury. The people had diabetic retinopathy, albinism, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, and trauma.[iv] [v]

Take this week to review how well are you communicating to patients that they need an annual eye exam. To help you with this, answer these three questions:

  1. Do you answer the question on your website?
  2. Do you have a script for staff and teach staff how to look for opportunities to give the script to patients?
  3. Does your office signage answer the question for patients?

Ask people outside the eyecare profession (friends and family members will do) if your message about need for an annual eye exam resonates with them. Ask specifically if your message motivates them to have an annual eye exam. If not, change your message so it does, then re-ask the three questions above.

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