Welcome to question of the day #370

Eyetools question of the day #370

I work in a community eye care practice. I’ve noticed that some patients are very anxious about having their eyes examined. I’m worried that some patients might not come for an eye exam because they are anxious. Do you have any ideas as to how I can reduce patient exam anxiety?

Some people have a fear associated with an eye examination. Here are some reasons for that fear:

During an eye examination patients are asked lots of questions. Some patients fear giving the wrong answer and getting the wrong glasses.

In community eye care eye pressure is often measured with an ‘air puff’ instrument. Some patients are anxious about the air puff and not being able to keep their eyes open.

Some patients are light-sensitive and worry about having bright lights shone into their eyes.

Some patients are worried about having to wear glasses.

Some patients are worried about having an eye disease.

Some patients have a general fear of eyes (ommetaphobia) and feel uncomfortable having a conversation about their eyes.

It can be difficult to convince someone with one or more of these fears to get an eye exam. While there is no simple solution to overcoming these eye care-related fears, there are some things you can do to help relieve some of the stress related to having an eye examination.

A low-cost way to do this is to address these issues in your marketing material. It would be too expensive to give this information in written form to every patient but you can have a section on your website or social media aimed at the anxious patient.

Explain that all patient responses to questions are double-checked so that all patients get the optimum glasses if they need them.

If you can, swap your ‘air puff tonometer’ for an Icare tonometer which does not use air puffs to measure eye pressure and in my experience is tolerated by most patients. If you can’t swap then advise patients that the puff of air is so quick that you get reliable results even if they blink.

Advise patients that if they are light sensitive you can conduct a thorough eye examination with reduced light brightness.

Advise patients that if they do need glasses you have a good range of styles and prices so they can have nice-looking glasses within their budget.

Advise patients that it is much easier to treat eye diseases when they are caught early. Also, advise patients that not all eye diseases cause symptoms and/or signs. Some eye diseases can only be found during an eye examination.

Advise patients that it is highly unlikely that you will have to touch their eyes (unless they want contact lenses) and that they will not see a close-up of their own eyes.

Advise patients to bring their current glasses (if they have them) to the eye examination.

Encourage patients to ask questions.

It can be difficult to get rid of all exam anxiety but by providing this type of information in advance some patients will feel less anxious and some may even book their first-ever eye examination.