I work in a community eyecare practice. How can I build good relationships with my patients?

Eyecare practice is hard work. It’s busy, there are many things competing for limited time. There are distractions. People get tired. But, despite the high demands of running a busy practice, patient comfort, trust, and satisfaction cannot be overlooked. What’s often referred to as chairside manner is where trust can be gained. Patients need to feel that they have been listened to, understood, and cared for. This makes patients feel good and also makes the practice staff feel good. Patients who feel good are likely to tell others of their good experience and to come back for their next eye examination.

During history and symptom taking really listen. Don’t just be waiting to speak. Listen. Patients like to be listened to and don’t like to be rushed. Patients that come to me from other practices often comment that they felt rushed in the other practice.

I understand that it is a very fine balance between giving patients the time and also seeing enough patients to make the practice viable and prosperous. This is tough.

Listen and don’t be quick to speak over the patient or steer the conversation in another direction before the patient has had a chance to voice all their concerns.

If a patient says to me during history and symptoms I tell them that it sounds like they need lenses for reading or stronger lenses for reading. If they tell me that they struggle to see when driving or looking when in class I tell them it sounds like they need lenses for distance vision or stronger lenses for distance vision. The earlier I can introduce a possible solution to their problem the less of a shock it is at the end of the examination when I can confirm my suspicions and repeat the solution. At the very end, I summarise my management so that by the time the exam has finished they hear the solution 2-4 times. By repeating throughout the exam, eye care practitioners are able to make patients better understand and feel more cared for.

Repeating findings and/or diagnoses helps validate patients’ concerns. It helps build patient trust by letting them know that YOU have confidence in them to know their own symptoms and experiences with their eyes and vision. A patient who knows they are being respected and feels understood is a good patient.

Write something in the records about the patient or about the weather of a problem they had getting to you. Something that you can refer to at the next examination and you can comment on. This provides a more personalised patient examination.

If you tell the patient you are going to do something then make sure you do it. If you agree to phone them later to find out the name of a medicine they are taking then phone them. If you tell them you are referring to another specialist then refer them. If you agree to let them know when their favourite frame is in stock then let them know. Nothing breaks trust faster than a broken promise.

Keep the patient at the centre of your focus and make sure all staff does the same. This will help positive word of mouth and repeat business.

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