It turns out one of the most important parts of vision care has nothing to do with our eyes. It’s actually all about our ears.
Patients forget 80 percent of what we’re told in a doctor’s office, including eye doctors’ offices. Of the remaining 20 percent, they only remember half of the information correctly.
Doctors own part of the responsibility. The goal of every doctor is to give patients the knowledge needed to change behaviors in ways that result in better overall eye health. To do that, doctors need to explain things carefully and clearly.
Patients’ goals are to see clearly, limit damage or get better, but they can’t do any of those things if they don’t remember the eye doctor’s instructions.
Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.”
I keep that in mind every time I see a patient, whether it’s for a medical issue, urgent care or a regular vision check-up.
For example, when explaining the link between diabetes and blood sugar, I make a rusty pipe analogy. Let me explain:
There are old farmhouses around the Dakotas and Minnesota that have hundred-year-old pipes in them. Back then, they used galvanized steel pipes in plumbing, and after years and years of water sitting in them they rusted and began to leak.
People who have diabetes long enough have sugar running through their blood streams at levels high enough that it changes the structure of the inside portion of their blood vessels. Rather than having nice, tight junctions, their blood vessels develop little gaps, like cracks in rusty pipes.
That’s where fluid can leak through to the eyes, the kidneys and other tissues. The fluid causes damage, just like the water from leaky pipes would do to a house. If the leaking fluid sits in the surrounding eye tissue long enough, permanent vision loss and even blindness could result.
Metaphors like these often help. On the patient side, here are six things you can do –
Sometimes people just need a second set of ears. If someone else is hearing the same information, they can compare notes later and the friend or family member can fill in the gaps.
According to the Association for Psychological Science, people have a much better chance of remembering things they write down. Plus, even if you don’t remember certain things later, you can refer to the notes.
It’s important to practice what’s known as active listening. This means clearing the mind not just to listen, but to actually hear what the doctor is saying. Verifying points with questions helps, too: “So I need to use these drops twice a day. Is that correct?”
Speaking of questions, ask your eye doctor to repeat or clarify anything you don’t understand clearly. Repetition is always good for retention.
Ask your eye doctor to give you a written visit summary. Many practitioners make this part of every visit. If yours doesn’t, ask them to jot down the key points, medications you need to take and life changes you should make.
If you get home and discover something isn’t clear, or even if you realize it days or weeks later, call your eye doctor’s office for clarification. Don’t be shy. This is not bothersome or demanding; it’s our job to make sure you understand everything.
Eye doctors and our staff members want your eyes to be as healthy as possible. Remembering what we tell you is key. When we work together – you and your eye care professionals – everything will be clear.