Home Building a Specialty Increasing Dry Eye Awareness: A Crucial Step for Eye Care Providers

Increasing Dry Eye Awareness: A Crucial Step for Eye Care Providers

Dr. Jessilin Quint in white coat and statement necklace talks about dry eye awareness among her patients.
Dr. Quint says that taking care of patients’ dry eyes is good for their comfort and vision–and for her practice.

For Jessilin Quint, OD, MBA, MS, FAAO, of Smart Eye Care in Augusta, Maine, talking with patients about their signs and symptoms of dry eye is important. The higher attention the issue gains during Dry Eye Awareness Month can help–both patients and eye care professionals. Raising awareness about dry eye not only can help patients find relief, but it also significantly impacts optical sales, patient retention and satisfaction, she says. Smart Eye Care has three primary clinics and one dry eye center.

NEW STUDY REINFORCES CONVERSATION

A recent national survey, the State of Dry Eye survey from Bausch + Lomb, explores dry eye understanding and experiences among American adults.  “As an eye care provider, these insights give me a pulse on what our patients are experiencing,” Dr. Quint says. Notably, the survey revealed a staggering lack of understanding and awareness among patients about dry eye, which underscores the need for proactive approaches in eye care practices. She says that she was particularly struck by the finding that 81% of dry eye sufferers said they are constantly aware of how their eyes feel. The study also found that close to half of the sufferers (46%) reports that sometimes their symptoms are so bad that they can practically “hear” themselves blink. (Read the WO story here.)

Perhaps it is the high prevalence of dry eye that paradoxically keeps doctors from talking about it. Yet as the survey points out, many patients remain unaware of their dry eye symptoms. “I have patients with symptoms who don’t even realize they have dry eye,” she says. The survey found that 66% of respondents don’t know that the symptoms of dry eye are increasingly present in younger individuals. “The conventional wisdom—even when I graduated from optometry school—was that dry eye primarily impacts older women. Moreover, 52% of dry eye sufferers think dry eye is something people must learn to live with, which indicates a significant gap in patient education,” she says.

PROACTIVE APPROACH

These survey findings reinforced Dr. Quint’s determination to integrate dry eye assessments into every annual eye exam. “Identifying dry eye can begin at the annual eye exam,” she says. She asks questions that flag potential dry eye patients, such as “Do you experience fluctuating vision, blurriness, or photophobia?” She will ask contact lens patients at what time they become aware of their lenses. She incorporates meibography to catch early signs of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

Listening carefully to what patients say is key. For example, during a refraction when she asks about clarity, often patients will say something like, “Well, let me blink and then I’ll tell you.” They say it jokingly, but that’s where she can explain that fluctuating vision is a symptom of dry eye. She has also trained staff to ask the right questions and recognize symptoms.

Over the years, the eye care industry has introduced innovations in dry eye treatment, from in-office therapies to pharmaceutical options and nutritional supplements. Dr. Quint highlights the importance of utilizing these tools to provide comprehensive care. “We have therapies available that patients might not know about,” she says. It’s up to the doctor and patient to come up with an approach.

BEYOND PATIENT COMFORT

Of course, the primary reason for helping patients find relief for dry eye is to help them see well and feel more comfortable. But addressing dry eye symptoms can also have a positive impact on practice revenue and patient retention. “If you bring in additional in-office treatments, it increases revenue streams and improves patient retention,” Dr. Quint states. Focusing on the patient in the chair and treating their symptoms leads to repeat visits and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

One common misconception is that addressing dry eye requires expensive, high-tech equipment. Dr. Quint disagrees. “You don’t need all the bells and whistles. These patients are already in your chair; you just need to ask the right questions and use the tools you have.”

Even if an eye care professional determines that the patient needs advanced treatments that he or she may not have available, the patient has been made aware that they don’t have to suffer with dry eye symptoms. Optometrists can certainly start the conversation and start the patient on the way to feeling better. By doing so, providers can improve patient outcomes, enhance satisfaction, and ultimately ensure better eye health for all.

Read more about the national survey on dry eye at KnowYourDryEye.com.

 

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