Dry eye often sits on the back burner of a busy medical-oriented optometry/ophthalmology practice like mine. Glaucoma and proliferative diabetic retinopathy dwarf seemingly smaller issues like ocular surface disease, right? Not if, like me, you’ve had a patient tell you that you saved their life by treating her dry eye. Dry eye disease can be just as debilitating as a disabling hip fracture, studies say. I believe dry eye disease is a vastly underdiagnosed cause of decreased quality of life, and it is my job as the optometrist to identify this life-altering problem and treat it. Furthermore, dry eye can make even the perfect refractive surgery a disaster. Working in a premium surgery-based practice, it is imperative to me to treat dry eye to improve surgical outcomes.
Dry eye patients tend to suffer silently; they may not want to seem like “a complainer” or they might think “it’s probably normal.” Conversely, you may have patients whose whole life centers around dry eye symptoms. These patients simply want someone to listen to them and care enough to address their issue. I make sure to ask every patient of mine how their eyes feel day to day. This opens the door to discuss any symptomatic ocular surface disease. I spend a significant amount of my time with dry eye patients listening and empathizing. I then explain their diagnosis, and why I am advising the treatments that I recommend. My practice prides itself on our successful premium surgical outcomes, and part of that includes identifying dry eye preemptively and treating it pre- and post- operatively. This drastically decreases postop chair time and improves patient satisfaction. I am honest with my preoperative patients, and inform them up front if dry eye is going to delay or cancel their refractive surgery.
Since I have made the commitment to my practice last year to take dry eye seriously and direct our dry eye clinic, I have more than doubled (almost tripled) my dry eye patient base. These patients provide our own free marketing. Improve a dry eye patient’s quality of life, and that patient will refer their family and friends to you. I make it a point to discuss new dry eye technology with my patients and provide them with up-to-date products and in-office procedures. Following up with my patients regularly is key, and I explain to them that dry eye maintenance is vital to preventing flare-ups. This not only keeps my schedule full, but it ensures compliance. If you make it a point to manage dry eye proactively, you will find that you are taking your silent sufferers and converting them to outspoken devotees of your practice. I have made dry eye my priority, and thus my patients have made my practice theirs.