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Complicated Patients

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on February 27, 2018

Optometry is an attractive profession in many ways. First of all, the focus of an optometrist’s career is treating the eye, one of the coolest organs in the body. Also, optometry allows practitioners to have the option of being small business owners. Even though there are many positives, more often than not, complicated patients can bring you down.

Dealing with people means dealing with difficult situations. Going on about our credentials and experience won’t make the situation better. Here are a few tips for the tough ones:

The Hypochondriac
This person has read numerous articles on the Internet and is convinced that he or she is going blind/can cure myopia with eye exercises/needs antibiotics when it is just a case of mild conjunctivitis. This is where you need to firmly, yet respectfully, put on the white coat and remind the patient who he or she is dealing with. While it is good to do extra testing, don’t be bullied into prescribing unnecessary medicines. If the patient insists, say “I’ve seen this before and the best course of action is to wait it out. If it doesn’t get better in 5 days, then come in and I’ll prescribe you X.”

The Complainer
This person has an opinion about everything and it is usually a negative opinion. The staff is talking too long on the phone, the wait is too long, the drops makes his or her vision too blurry, the doctor is too young, etc. Well, as troublesome as it sounds, listen to what he or she has to say. In cases of the wait being too long, the patient might be pointing out something in your practice that can be improved. So, take his or her comments to heart and do what you can to make improvements. If the point of contention can’t be improved upon, such as the drops, some educating can be done. As you put the drops in, say that they affect everyone differently and that some don’t experience changes in vision while other experience varying degrees of blurriness. Telling the patient what to expect can decrease the complaining.

The Noncompliant
This person doesn’t follow the course of treatment, and that can lead to problems. Here is another case where a little education goes a long way. If the patient is experiencing a bacterial corneal ulcer from contact lenses abuse, explain that it is very important that they don’t use contacts until he or she finishes the antibiotic therapy. If the patient has glaucoma, you will need educate him or her about needing long term treatment to preserve vision. If cost is a barrier, find out what can be done to reduce costs. If that doesn’t work, explain that the treatment is cheaper than the assistance he or she will need after going blind or that noncompliance now will lead to more expensive treatment later.

The Conversationalist
This patient is very pleasant to deal with and he or she also talks your and your staff’s ears off. While you want the patient to feel welcomed and at ease in your practice, you have other patients to see. So, you don’t want them to start complaining about wait times because a patient with the gift of gab is making an exam go longer than usual. When dealing with this patient, say something to the effect of “I’d love to chat with you but I need to get your medical history. So, can you tell me if you or anyone in your family had glaucoma?”

Wouldn’t it be nice if our degrees and the starched white coat lead to fewer problems with patients? Well, things don’t always work that way. Sometimes it is the troublesome patients that show us where we can make improvements.


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