While the vast majority of eyecare professionals (96 percent) say they serve culturally diverse patients, far too few are taking steps to actively meet their needs, according to new research supported by Transitions Optical. The survey[i], which was conducted in March, revealed that two-thirds of eyecare professionals do not use bilingual or in-language resources; half do not employ a diverse or bilingual staff; and three-fourths do not participate in community outreach activities targeting ethnic populations. All of these efforts are important to culturally diverse consumers–and can even be a differentiator in an eyecare professional’s ability to attract and retain diverse patients, according to separate consumer research[ii] supported by Transitions Optical.
Employing a diverse staff makes a difference to culturally diverse patients, with more than two-thirds of Hispanics and Asian Americans, and three-fourths of African Americans, agreeing that the best eyecare practices include staff from a mix of races and ethnicities. Additionally, more than four out of 10 Americans believe that an eyecare professional of the same race or ethnicity will better understand them. Despite this, just 53 percent of eyecare professionals reported employing a diverse staff, and 49 percent said they employed at least one bilingual team member.
The availability of bilingual or in-language materials is also valued by culturally diverse patients, even beyond their use to address language barriers. Approximately three-fourths of ethnic consumers believe that it is a sign of respect for their own or others’ cultures when an eyecare professional offers bilingual or in-language resources, with African Americans being the least likely to need bilingual materials, but the most likely to agree with this statement. Despite this, the survey found that few eyecare professionals are taking advantage of bilingual tools. In fact, six out of 10 eyecare professionals reported that they do not use any multicultural resources.
While bilingual resources remain underutilized, more than six out of 10 eyecare professionals agreed that having access to a variety of multicultural resources–ranging from bilingual tools to staff training and education–would be helpful. Nearly all (95 percent) also agreed that having a good understanding of their patients’ cultural backgrounds would allow them to provide a better, overall patient experience.
“The great interest in multicultural resources is encouraging, and has led us to believe that many eyecare professionals simply may not be aware that these tools do exist, or may not know where to find them,” says Manuel Solis, marketing manager, trade and strategic retail accounts, Transitions Optical. “The survey reinforced that eyecare professionals have several materials on their wish list including brochures and information about eye health and lens options in other languages, bilingual reading cards and staff training/education. Transitions Optical makes all of these resources available free-of-charge through MyMulticulturalToolkit.com. We hope that by reinforcing the need for these types of materials–and opportunity to those who use them–will encourage more eyecare professionals to take advantage.”
Exploring Treatment of Overall Health Issues
The survey also explored how eyecare professionals treat and communicate with patients experiencing overall health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, which are more common among ethnic populations, revealing a need for enhanced patient education and an opportunity for increased collaboration with general health care providers to improve overall patient care.
While eight out of 10 eyecare professionals agreed that their patients with diabetes are compliant with scheduling regular eye exams, just one in 10 strongly agreed with this statement, reinforcing an opportunity to educate those who may not be as vigilant about scheduling regular eye exams, or those who aren’t scheduling them at all. Eyecare professionals were much less likely to say that their patients with hypertension were good about scheduling regular eye exams, with less than six out of 10 agreeing, and only 7 percent strongly agreeing.
At the same time, the survey revealed that eyecare professionals could be doing more to further educate and improve communication with patients about the risk of eye damage from overall health issues. More than one in five eyecare professionals admitted to not discussing the potential eye health complications of diabetes with patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes, and nearly one-third admitted to not discussing eye health complications with patients diagnosed with hypertension. Additionally, just half of eyecare professionals offer printed materials about diabetes and its effects on the eyes, and just over one-third for hypertension, to patients. Few also are taking steps such as directing patients to online resources; recommending specific lens options to protect the eyes or enhance vision; and discussing the ocular side effects of medications taken for diabetes or hypertension.
While one-in-three eyecare professionals do not consult with or share records with the patients’ primary care physician when it comes to treating diabetes, and half do not collaborate when it comes to treating hypertension, virtually all (98 percent) said they agree that there is a great need for the optical industry and general health care industry to work together to reduce eye damage caused by overall health issues.
“Recognizing the strong connection between overall health issues and eye disease–and the greater risks faced by ethnic populations–Transitions Optical is pleased to sponsor a roundtable discussion on this topic and the importance of collaborating with other influencers, including general health professionals and community organizations, to provide enhanced consumer education,” says Solis. “We hope that the resulting discussions will further promote collaboration so that more patients at greater risk will be encouraged to schedule routine eye exams.”
The roundtable event, which will be held on July 14 in Miami, will be attended by eyecare professionals, general health professionals and representatives from cultural and community-based organizations.
[i] Online survey of 241 eyecare professionals conducted by Jobson Optical Research on behalf of Transitions Optical, Inc. from March 19-24, 2014.
[ii] Online survey of 1,000 nationally representative Americans 18+, with oversamples of up to 400 interviews among African American, American Indian, Asian American and Hispanic sub-groups, conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Transitions Optical, Inc. in February 2013.