Smartphone apps are so cool. There’s an app for ICD9/10 codes. There’s an app for contact lens calculations. There’s an app that can turn your smartphone into an ophthalmoscope! There’s also an app that will allow people to have their eyes examined for refractive error. This is where apps stop looking so cool. While having a smartphone app that examines eyes is convenient for the patient, it reduces the likelihood that he or she will come to an optometrist or ophthalmologist for an eye exam.
“Well, an app is no replacement for a medical professional like me.” You must be saying now. True, an app doesn’t screen for cataracts, glaucoma, or other medical conditions. The problem is that you know this to be true, but your patient doesn’t. So, how do you educate current and future patients about the benefits of seeing their eye care provider? Here are some tips to help you out.
Stress that you diagnose medical conditions.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists do more than prescribe glasses. They are doctors. Many people don’t realize that fact. So, take some time to educate your patients about how eyes are a portal to the rest of the body and can draw attention to not just eye conditions like cataracts and glaucoma. An eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can detect conditions such as diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, and hypertension. In fact, one study done by the health services company Optum showed that optometrists and ophthalmologists detected more than 4,000 cases of chronic conditions. An app can’t do that.
Watch your words
Do you and your staff ask patients “Are you here for an exam for eyeglasses or contacts?” Saying that pigeonholes you. Instead say, “Are you here for a comprehensive eye exam?” Once in the exam room explain what you are doing and why it is important for the patient’s eye and overall health, so that the patient knows that you are more than just a prescription filler.
Keep up with medical advances
Medical research is developing new and better ways of treating patients with all sorts of eye conditions. Some treatments are many years away from being used on humans. Other treatments are coming up in the next three to five years. Attending meetings, conferences and continuing education courses, as well as reading about research in the trade and mainstream media helps. In addition, there are clinical trials that your patients can participate in. You can refer them to ClinicalTrials.Gov to learn more about clinical trials in your area.
Giveaways are good
When you go to a dentist, he or she gives a you a toothbrush with a contact information as a reminder to: One, replace your toothbrush every three months for optimal dental health. Two, return to this dentist for your next exam. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are allowed to do the same thing. While a toothbrush isn’t appropriate, an eyeglass case is and so are sunglasses, cleaning cloths, magnets which list your phone number, location and hours of operation, and the list goes on.
It isn’t enough to ride on the coattails of your education and expertise. You have to let others know that eye care is healthcare and that they need to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist to get the best care for their eyes.