Education key for glaucoma care


Findings from various patient surveys of satisfaction with medical care show that many of the commonly cited complaints can be mitigated by appropriate patient education.

Key Points

Orlando, FL-Findings from various patient surveys of satisfaction with medical care show that many of the commonly cited complaints can be mitigated by appropriate patient education, said Sarwat Salim, MD, FACS.

Speaking during a glaucoma symposium during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Dr. Salim discussed the considerations of who, what, when, where, and how to optimize this basic and essential factor for improving glaucoma patient care.

Where opportunity presents itself

The physician's office or clinic is the best place for patient education, Dr. Salim noted, because in this setting there is face time with the physician along with access to the individual's medical record and a variety of tools to use for education.

Community glaucoma screening events represent one example of an opportune platform, but individual physicians should also consider being proactive in working with various groups or facilities in the community to organize educational programs. In addition, they might reach out to local media outlets about participating in informational interviews or about authoring an article for print media.

"January is a particularly appropriate time for getting the word out since it is Glaucoma Awareness Month, but really any time is good for efforts to raise public awareness about glaucoma," Dr. Salim said.

In addition to these approaches, Internetbased education represents an important tool in today's electronic age. Physicians should familiarize themselves with the variety of publicfriendly Web sites available so they can refer their patients to them. Some particularly good resources for online education include the American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Glaucoma Society, and Prevent Blindness America.

Within the office or clinic, all staff should be involved in patient education, beginning with the personnel at the front desk, Dr. Salim said.

"As soon as patients register, they can be handed brochures to read while they are sitting in the waiting room, and if there is video capability, educational DVDs on glaucoma and other ophthalmic diseases can be shown in the waiting area," she said.

Technicians in the office should also be welltrained in patient education and designated to provide information on simple issues, such as instructing patients about instilling topical drops. Ultimately, however, it is the physician's responsibility to set aside time to educate patients about their disease, its treatment, and prognosis, Dr. Salim said.

In undertaking this task, attention must be given to how the information is relayed. Discussions should be based on nonmedical terms and generously incorporate visual aids while taking into account the patient's age, educational level, potential language barriers, and cultural issues. Time must also be allotted for patients to ask questions, and all patients should go home with written instructions for medication use.

The information provided should aim to set realistic expectations and reinforce the message that glaucoma is a chronic disease that can be controlled but not cured, she said.

"Physicians must be careful not to intimidate patients with this information, but at the same time, it is essential for patients to understand that treatment will not reverse the existing damage and is intended to prevent future vision loss," Dr. Salim concluded. "Patients must also understand that glaucoma is a chronic condition, such as hypertension or diabetes, and it requires ongoing surveillance and follow-up visits."


Sarwat Salim, MD, FACS

Dr. Salim did not indicate any financial interest in the subject matter.

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