Dry Eye: Compassionate communication

Lucy Patchett explores how dry eye clinics play an integral role in the optical sector

Dry eye disease (DED) sufferers are estimated to be between 5% and 50% of the adult population worldwide, according to a 2020 Transparency Market Research report. With post-pandemic lifestyles increasing risk factors, such as screen-time use, it is no wonder many practices have created dry eye clinics to ensure there is specific attention given to DED patients.

Having the time to allow the patient to speak at length on dry eye and provide a detailed history is not always possible in general eye appointments and can leave patients feeling frustrated and unheard. However, having a dedicated clinic for the disease guarantees the extra time needed to deliver personalised treatment plans, as optometrist Gillian Bruce explains. ‘This is where dry eye clinics have the biggest opportunity,’ says Bruce, who developed the dry eye clinic at Cameron Optometry in Edinburgh.

‘There’s that cathartic moment [for the patient] when they realise that they’ve genuinely been listened to for the first time, it can be quite an emotional thing for them,’ adds Craig McArthur, optometrist and director of Peter Ivins Eye Care, who has run a dry eye clinic for 10 years. ‘I’ve honed that skill over the last 10 to 12 years, understanding how to take a holistic approach to dealing with the person and the family, rather than just the eye disease. Your communication skills have to be adapted to the severity of the dry eye. So, if it’s a patient with minor symptoms because they work on a laptop six hours a day, you’re going to deal with that slightly differently from the people that travelled 200 miles and are at the end of their tether. That “one size fits all” communication style doesn’t work.’

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