Patients do not place importance on preventive eye care

Wills Eye Ophthalmologist-in-Chief calls for more collaboration to seize opportunities.
Julia A. Haller

A recent survey of 251 ophthalmologists found the majority of their patients are only somewhat proactive or not proactive at all in their preventive eye care.

Wills Eye Hospital and Ocular Surgery News distributed a multi-question survey to ophthalmologists in group private practices, single private practices, academic departments and other types of practices throughout the country. The survey asked a variety of questions regarding current and future trends in the field of ophthalmology.

The most disturbing finding in the survey is the high number of patients who do not care for their eyes or seek regular ocular checkups, Julia A. Haller, MD, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief of Wills Eye Hospital, told OSN.

One-third of patients, the respondents said, do not place the same amount of emphasis on eye care as they do with other health routines, such as annual physicals or routine dental visits.

#

“I wasn’t shocked to see it, but it was disappointing. And it shows where we have work to do. We need to be doing a better job of getting the word out. We haven’t gotten the word out well enough about how important routine eye care is. In general, people tend to assume that everything is fine until it isn’t. More than 90% of patients don’t seek eye care until they have a problem. Doctors report referrals are coming from general practitioners, so it’s not even primary care ophthalmology or optometry in a screening type exam. It’s people going to their general practitioner after their vision is already blurry, and they get sent in,” Haller said.

Only 10% of respondents believed their patients are “very proactive” with preventive eye care. Comparatively, 50.2% reported their patients are “somewhat” proactive and 33.9% reported their patients are “not very” proactive, according to the survey results.

#

Telemedicine

The lack of telemedicine was interesting, Haller noted, as only 3.2% of respondents said they use the technology “very frequently” and 5.6% said they use it “frequently.” The majority of respondents, 46.6%, said they never use telemedicine.

However, more than 90% of respondents said telemedicine will likely have a larger role in the field within the next 5 years.

“We need to push forward with our own telemedical networks. I think people need to see the success. When you do something paradigm shifting, you have to show in a tangible way what the benefit is to the patients and physicians. Then it will build momentum almost on its own. There are pockets of telemedical expertise all around the country now, and there are small areas where it’s been used very effectively, but it hasn’t yet gotten into the general population,” she said.

Encouraging news on centers of excellence

The favorable responses to the importance of centers of excellence for eye care as a potential resource were “encouraging,” Haller said.

#

The fact that ophthalmologists place importance on clinics that strive to “take the best possible care of its patients,” try out cutting-edge treatments and technologies, and integrate new surgical procedures into their practice is heartening, she said.

“This survey went out to general ophthalmologists, many of whom are doing a great job on the front line of battle out in their community, but they like knowing they have backup at centers of excellence when or if they need it. So that is very validating in terms of those who are trying to keep our benchmarks very strong,” she said.

Misinformation is damaging

Haller also said ophthalmologists need to battle the “misinformation” their patients pick up from the internet or sources outside of their physicians. The internet has taken over the traditional “word of mouth or brochure” strategy to disseminate information to patients, she said, which can be a “double-edged sword.”

“There is so much misinformation, so many times patients aren’t getting enough information so they’re not making good choices about prevention and care, and then when they do get the information, a lot of times it’s not right. Yet again, rather than just sitting back and letting the waves wash over us, we as a specialty need to take the bull by the horns and have a leadership role here,” Haller said. – by Robert Linnehan

 

For more information:

Julia A. Haller, MD, can be reached at Wills Eye Hospital, 840 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107; email: jhaller@willseye.org.

 

Disclosure: Haller reports no relevant financial disclosures.

 

 

Julia A. Haller

A recent survey of 251 ophthalmologists found the majority of their patients are only somewhat proactive or not proactive at all in their preventive eye care.

Wills Eye Hospital and Ocular Surgery News distributed a multi-question survey to ophthalmologists in group private practices, single private practices, academic departments and other types of practices throughout the country. The survey asked a variety of questions regarding current and future trends in the field of ophthalmology.

The most disturbing finding in the survey is the high number of patients who do not care for their eyes or seek regular ocular checkups, Julia A. Haller, MD, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief of Wills Eye Hospital, told OSN.

One-third of patients, the respondents said, do not place the same amount of emphasis on eye care as they do with other health routines, such as annual physicals or routine dental visits.

#

“I wasn’t shocked to see it, but it was disappointing. And it shows where we have work to do. We need to be doing a better job of getting the word out. We haven’t gotten the word out well enough about how important routine eye care is. In general, people tend to assume that everything is fine until it isn’t. More than 90% of patients don’t seek eye care until they have a problem. Doctors report referrals are coming from general practitioners, so it’s not even primary care ophthalmology or optometry in a screening type exam. It’s people going to their general practitioner after their vision is already blurry, and they get sent in,” Haller said.

Only 10% of respondents believed their patients are “very proactive” with preventive eye care. Comparatively, 50.2% reported their patients are “somewhat” proactive and 33.9% reported their patients are “not very” proactive, according to the survey results.

#

Telemedicine

The lack of telemedicine was interesting, Haller noted, as only 3.2% of respondents said they use the technology “very frequently” and 5.6% said they use it “frequently.” The majority of respondents, 46.6%, said they never use telemedicine.

However, more than 90% of respondents said telemedicine will likely have a larger role in the field within the next 5 years.

“We need to push forward with our own telemedical networks. I think people need to see the success. When you do something paradigm shifting, you have to show in a tangible way what the benefit is to the patients and physicians. Then it will build momentum almost on its own. There are pockets of telemedical expertise all around the country now, and there are small areas where it’s been used very effectively, but it hasn’t yet gotten into the general population,” she said.

PAGE BREAK

Encouraging news on centers of excellence

The favorable responses to the importance of centers of excellence for eye care as a potential resource were “encouraging,” Haller said.

#
 

The fact that ophthalmologists place importance on clinics that strive to “take the best possible care of its patients,” try out cutting-edge treatments and technologies, and integrate new surgical procedures into their practice is heartening, she said.

“This survey went out to general ophthalmologists, many of whom are doing a great job on the front line of battle out in their community, but they like knowing they have backup at centers of excellence when or if they need it. So that is very validating in terms of those who are trying to keep our benchmarks very strong,” she said.

Misinformation is damaging

Haller also said ophthalmologists need to battle the “misinformation” their patients pick up from the internet or sources outside of their physicians. The internet has taken over the traditional “word of mouth or brochure” strategy to disseminate information to patients, she said, which can be a “double-edged sword.”

“There is so much misinformation, so many times patients aren’t getting enough information so they’re not making good choices about prevention and care, and then when they do get the information, a lot of times it’s not right. Yet again, rather than just sitting back and letting the waves wash over us, we as a specialty need to take the bull by the horns and have a leadership role here,” Haller said. – by Robert Linnehan

 

For more information:

Julia A. Haller, MD, can be reached at Wills Eye Hospital, 840 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107; email: jhaller@willseye.org.

 

Disclosure: Haller reports no relevant financial disclosures.