Putting Patients at Ease Yields Optimal Outcomes

Clear communication, empathy, and reassurance are keys to making patients feel comfortable.
Photo Credit, Getty Images

My journey in eye care started six years ago as a patient care technician at a hospital before transitioning to my current role as an Ophthalmology Assistant. That role had me in a bustling private practice that covered a wide range of specialties including cornea, oculoplastics, retina, pediatrics, and glaucoma. My time there was incredibly educational, and I gained extensive knowledge in nearly every aspect of ophthalmology. 

In my current role as Ophthalmology Assistant at Look New Canaan, one of my most important tasks is ensuring patients feel comfortable and at ease. This is a skill that takes time to hone and doesn’t come naturally to everyone. While pediatric patients are my favorite, I need to tailor my approach to each individual patient who comes into the office. I’ve found that we can be efficient in our efforts, while also treating our patients with kindness and empathy, which is what gives ODs and patients the best experience. 

Treating Patients Like Family
I approach every patient as if they were my own family member, prioritizing patience and clear communication. I take the time to explain each procedure step by step, ensuring they feel informed and at ease. Building rapport through conversations and getting to know the patient personally is key to creating a comfortable environment. A warm smile is essential to convey a sense of welcome and support. Showing empathy and actively listening to the patient’s concerns make a significant difference in their experience. I always aim to reassure patients, ensuring they never feel rushed or pressured. My goal is for every patient to leave feeling happy and satisfied with the care they’ve received, striving to make each visit a positive experience. As a mother of four children, I bring a deep understanding of patience and appreciate that every individual is unique.

These skills particularly come in handy when I’m working with patients who may be a bit more nervous to be at the eye doctor. It’s essential to approach these patients with empathy, patience, and clear communication. Building trust is crucial. Introduce yourself, explain your role clearly, and listen actively to their concerns. Acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that you’re there to help. Explain everything step-by-step beforehand so they know what to expect. Encourage them to ask questions and address each concern respectfully. Involve the patient in decision-making when possible. Offer choices where appropriate to give them a sense of control over their situation. 

Each patient is unique, so it’s important to be flexible and adapt these strategies based on individual needs and responses. The goal is always to create a supportive environment where the patient feels respected, heard, and cared for.

Efficiency is Key
Balancing efficiency and excellent patient care involves prioritizing tasks, streamlining processes, and fostering clear communication. By staying organized, leveraging technology, and maintaining a patient-centered approach, we can deliver high-quality care efficiently. 

One of my biggest pieces of efficiency advice is to always preview the chart or notes to know exactly what the patient is coming in for. Ask all important questions during history intake to relay important information to the doctor promptly before they enter the exam room. This ensures that the doctor is fully informed and can address the patient’s needs efficiently. Keep track of appointments and patient information systematically to avoid delays and confusion. 

It’s also important to stay updated with the latest advancements and procedures in ophthalmology to enhance your knowledge and skills, thereby improving efficiency in patient care. By implementing these tips, you can streamline processes, improve patient care, and contribute to a more efficient workflow in your role.

Utilizing Technology
Technology also plays a crucial role in enhancing efficiency in any private practice. Having the latest technology significantly speeds up processes. Being paperless and utilizing advanced systems reduces the time spent on administrative tasks and minimizes human errors. 

Up-to-date technology ensures a seamless and pleasant experience for patients. It allows for quicker data access, smoother transitions between tasks, and reduces wait times. Utilizing devices like iPads with preloaded protocols enables quick documentation and eliminates the need for manual data entry. This frees up time to focus more on patient care and less on administrative tasks. Advanced technology helps in maintaining accurate records and diagnostic information, contributing to better treatment outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Prioritizing Patient Care
There’s something new to learn every day, which keeps this job exciting and rewarding. I find great joy in seeing patients smile and genuinely enjoy their visits with us. Witnessing their happiness when they receive new glasses or successfully wear contacts for the first time is incredibly gratifying. Teaching children to insert contacts and seeing their faces light up when they realize they can see clearly without glasses is truly amazing. 

Engaging with patients is crucial; being a part of their positive experience during eye exams is fulfilling. Our goal should always be to ensure patients feel comfortable, valued, and leave with a sense of having received exceptional care.

  • Erica O'Brien, COA

    With many years of experience, Erica O'Brien brings a blend of expertise and warmth to her patients' eye care journey. Her commitment to precision and patient comfort ensures that every eye exam is not just routine, but an experience tailored to patients' unique needs. Erica’s passion for eye health extends beyond the clinic, as she keeps up to date on the latest advancements in optometry. She also has a background in pediatrics, so she cares for patients of all ages.

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