A deliberate strategy to share the care of patients with ocular pathology has facilitated a seamless hand over of their management from a retiring optometrist to his younger colleagues.
It has always been my optometric dream that patients will present to my practice, not because of a brand or price, but because they value the service I offer.
To develop this personal patient base, I have sought to intentionally instil confidence in my patients.
Engaging Peter in the handover and allowing his patients to continue under his general and refractive care, has ensured the confidence they have in him is passed on
In my experience, this is best achieved by getting to the core of what brought a patient through your door. The way a patient’s concern is understood and resolved is as important as the resolution itself. Confidence is built when generic advice is presented in a relevant manner.
Yet at the beginning of your career, it can be difficult to get patients through your door in the first place. You’re young, inexperienced, and without reputation. Even when you’ve been in the same practice for seven years like I have, many prefer to continue under the care of their long serving practitioner.
That’s ok. In fact, it’s great! It’s this type of loyalty I want from my own patients.
But inevitably, that long serving practitioner will want to transition into retirement – so how can you ensure their patients feel confident about turning to you for continuity of care?
A program I have developed in conjunction with Nick Stanley, a young optometrist who has worked with me since he graduated at the end of 2017, has helped patients overcome anxiety and facilitated a smooth handover of their management by our long-standing optometrist, Peter Hewett.
‘Wise Eyes’ primarily addresses anxiety experienced by those at risk of chronic ocular pathology, particularly glaucoma.
It has been suggested that those at risk of glaucoma have a statistically significant worse quality of life than those treated. This is because of the worry associated with having to return for frequent reviews of a condition that is yet to be diagnosed or treated. Effective practitioner-patient communication is crucial to their perceived quality of life.1
Anecdotally, Nick and I had both noticed this, so we wanted to improve our patients’ understanding of the disease risks, the safety of monitoring, and the aims of their reviews, by separating this component of their care from their general and refractive reviews.
To facilitate this, Peter now hands over his at-risk patients to Nick and me for this aspect of their care. Engaging Peter in the handover and allowing his patients to continue under his general and refractive care has ensured the confidence they have in him is passed on to Nick and me via personal endorsement. From there, it is up to us to capitalise on this endorsement by identifying and addressing their concerns regarding their ocular condition.
To do this, we tailor ocular pathology consultations according to the individual risks each patient has. We make sure they understand the reason for each test and what their result means in both the short and long term. In most cases, we also generate a personalised report so they can discuss their results with their family who may also be at risk. Ultimately, we hope that these ‘Wise Eyes’ consults give patients the confidence for Nick and I to take on their complete eye care.
- Rossi GCM, Pasinetti GM, Briola A, Bianchi PE. Effect of glaucoma medications on quality of life examined by generic and vision specific instruments. J Clinic Experiment Ophthalmol 2010; 1:106.
Chris Pooley B.Sc (vis) B.Optom (hons) is an optometrist at Peter Hewett Optometrist by G&M Eyecare in Mosman, Sydney. He has a particular interest in promoting eye health through educating at risk patients and using imaging devices to allow for early diagnosis and intervention. Mr Pooley also has expertise in contact lens fitting including orthokeratology and is a member of the Orthokeratology Society of Oceania. He was a foundation member of Young Optometrists NSW/ ACT (YO) and is on the board of directors of the Look for Life Foundation.