5 Tips for Effective Communication with Patients

woman smiling at an eye care practitioner

How you come across can be as important as what you're saying.

Dr. Emilie Seitz offers ways to help ensure that your patient interactions lead to better outcomes for everyone.

By Emilie Seitz, OD


Tip #1 Purposely make eye contact with the patient at the beginning, middle and end of your exam.

First impressions are everything and perhaps no one feels that more than a new optometrist. That’s why eye contact is so important, especially now that we’re doing eye care in the digital age. Eye contact stimulates confidence from the practitioner and builds trust in the doctor/patient relationship. That’s why I look to build it into my greeting, middle and the end of the exam. Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things that has to be intentional in this day and age.

Tip #2. Use support phrases.

I once had a mentor who would say things such as, “That’s an excellent question” and “You make a really good point” before he went on to answer. I realize that by using support phrases, he was doing two things. The first was that he was building his patient’s confidence to ask those questions. The second was that he was establishing that he was the go-to person to answer their questions. I thought that the combined effect made for an open and honest dialogue.

Tip #3. Don’t overcomplicate.

I’m definitely an eye nerd and sometimes that means I can overcomplicate my explanations. But thinking less about explaining and more about “What’s the impact of the information” helps prevent complication delivery of that information. For example, when discussing a multifocal contact lens, instead of saying, “It’s going to be a trade-off because it’s under your design and we can only really give you 75% of your vision,” how about saying, “If you’re sitting in a car next to a 20-year-old who has perfect vision, do I think that you’ll be the first person to shout out all the road signs? Well, no because we’re trying to get you a little bit of mirror, but you should feel comfortable and safe when you’re driving home.” Real life applications always help.

Tip #4. Write or illustrate to get your point across.

A picture is worth 1,000 remakes. Ok, maybe that’s not how the phrase goes, but I’ll often spend an additional two minutes to draw diagrams especially when it comes to new progressive lens wearers. Whether it’s your diagrams, internet pictures or other figures, they all serve to help really enhance the patient understanding.

Tip #5. Emphasize that you are addressing their complaints.

They say that when you repeat someone’s name, it instantly makes you more likable.

(To see the video with Dr. Seitz’s full description of these tips and to access more videos, subscribe to the Online Success Center).

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