by Paul Karpecki, OD, FAAO
Positive outcomes for dry eye patients depend greatly on their participation in their own health decisions, and they can make the best choices with appropriate guidance and recommendations from their doctor. But what is the best way to educate these patients about their condition and treatment options?
The ideal approach for patient education is a three-step process:
Identification: First, clearly identify and explain the condition for the patient. A picture is ideal and as the adage says, “worth a thousand words”.
Pathology: Next, with a picture up on a slit lamp imaging system, magnified on an iPhone, or via animations, point out the area of pathology and let them know what is concerning. If something is concerning to the doctor, it is concerning to the patient as well. For example, you can point out the erythema, blepharitis, or telangiectatic vessels on the eyelid margin.
Significance: Lastly, discuss the benefits to the patient as well as the consequences of not treating such as loss or atrophy of meibomian glands, inability to wear contact lenses, thinning or loss of lashes, and the potential for chronic dry eye disease.
Remember that empathy and enthusiasm are important components for patient buy-in. Dry eye patients have often been dealing with their symptoms for a long time. Showing that their situation is a significant concern to all provides confidence in you and your recommended treatment plan as does your enthusiasm for the procedure and its potential to help the patient.
Once the patient is fully educated about their condition and treatment options, they can make an informed decision based on their economic situation and their desire to be compliant with at home treatments versus in-office procedures.
Many patients appreciate the dental model, with a more targeted in-office procedure such as Low-Level Light Therapy (LLLT) followed by at home maintenance. Although insurance does not cover these in-office procedures, their efficacy and the hope of slowing the already extensive gland loss often outweighs the cost.
The combination of highly-effective therapies such as LLLT and the right education model can result in superior dry eye management and more satisfied patients. Just remember the three E’s: Education, Empathy, and Enthusiasm.