As an eye care provider you are very knowledgeable about diseases, diagnosis and treatments. It can be easy to forget, however, that your patients may never have even heard of the names of the eyes diseases before. To patients, the names may sound quite scary. Keep in mind the following tips for providing your patients with vision literacy so they are not confused or unnecessarily frightened by their diagnosis. Vision literacy is also important to make sure they fully understand their options.
Anticipate Their Questions
Different patients will commonly ask the same questions. They will want to know what the diagnosis means for their vision today and long-term. They will want to know what the treatment options are and what the risks are. When explaining the diagnosis to the patient, you should try to anticipate some of the questions they may havebefore they even ask. Provide the details in your explanation. Also consider providing the patient a handout that answers these 'frequently asked questions' to bring home. It is likely they will have loved ones that want an explanation, or they may forget the answers when they are at home and want to refresh their memory.
Keep the Words Simple
It can be easy to fall into the habit of using medical terms when discussing a disease with a patient. Keep in mind that the patient doesn't likely have a medical background. Therefore keep the words you use simple so they can understand what you are saying.
Avoid Overwhelming Them
It is important to find the right balance between providing them too little information and providing too much information. You don't want the patient to be overwhelmed. If you are diagnosing them with macular degeneration that has been detected early, don't provide details about treatments for advanced macular degeneration unless they specifically ask questions. At this point the patient may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis, so discussing a treatment that they may not face for years might be too much information for them to process.
Consider Using Visual Images
Although you can visualize in your head where the retina or lens is located within the eyeball, your patient may not know these details. Use diagrams to help explain the disease and how it impacts vision. This will help the patient gain a complete understanding of what is going on. Diagrams can reduce confusion and even anxiety about what the diagnosis means.
Offer them Suggestions for Further Research
Some patients will want to learn more than you can possibly tell them during their visit. Some won't ask any questions during the visit but will have 10 questions by the time they get home. If they are not provided the information, they may do their own research on the web. Since internet websites can provide incorrect information, consider giving patients a list of reliable resources they can study if they want to learn more.
Avoid Mentioning Other Diseases
A patient hearing the name of an eye disease for the first time may get confused if other diseases are mentioned in the same conversation. They may go home and wonder what they were diagnosed with. Therefore it is best to just mention one disease during the conversation. If you have ruled out other diseases it is not necessary to mention that at this time.
Following the above tips when talking to a patient about a diagnosis will help provide them a clear understanding of what they are facing. By providing them with vision literacy they will not be confused or scared when they leave the office.