Review of Cornea

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I Know Write from Wrong

I love writing to patients. And I love it when they write back. The most common letters I get from patients are these: IOU.
By Montgomery Vickers, OD


I’m a writer. I like to write notes and letters to patients. They don’t always have to be about anything in particular. I’ve been known to drop a note saying something as simple as, “How ya been?” or “Just checkin’ in” or “Wouldja make me a pie?” OK, mostly the last one, but when I write to patients, my heart is always in the right place and I do use abbreviations that make my words sound like George Bush is sayin’ ‘em.

Oh, we all write to patients. Yes, you do, too. What is a recall card but a method of writing something to a patient without actually having to write something to the patient?

Speaking of recall cards, I find they come in two genres: corny and uplifting.

Corny reminder cards. Corny examples include cartoon caricatures of chubby, goofy doctors or chubby, goofy images saying things that are goofy (and perhaps chubby) like, “EYE miss U!” with a sad eye doctor crying. Or maybe, “Where have ‘EWE’ been?” with a sheep bleating the words. Research has shown that these cards are extremely effective, at least for the card sellers.

Semi-Snellen eye charts are very big in the recall card industry. Patients find them comfortable and familiar. Patients are people too, you know. A patient sees the eye chart and he immediately knows that this is a Call to Action. Ask your marketing team about how important a Call to Action is.

They love to explain things like that to ignorant eye doctors. Snellen chart? It’s a Call to Action! The patient cannot help but Act by shredding the card before he reads it. Whew! Close Call.

Uplifting reminder cards. There’s nothing like a picture of a white dove flying into the sun with inspirational words, perhaps coming from a Higher Power. The words say such sincere and inspiring things as, “Vision is our greatest gift.” Call and see if your insurance will cover this “greatest gift.”

Many patients have gratefully told me that seeing that bird in flight reminds them just how much they want fried chicken for dinner.

It’s Your Birthday—Again
But we communicate in so many other ways, don’t we? Patients love, love, love birthday postcards for some reason. My wife constantly tells me that this is because a birthday is the only day in the year that is all about YOU. I typically reply, “Then why am I at work every July 28?” She just responds with that look that all wives give that makes the husband know, deep inside, that his wife loves an idiot.

I’m always amazed that patients will thank me for a generic birthday postcard with a cartoon picture of a cake that says something clever like “Happy Birthday!” I mean, people have literally stopped me at the grocery store and tearfully thanked me for that same card I’ve had the computer send them for years and years. Never change a winning game plan!

Don’t get me started on emails. I actually love to email patients. It’s fast. It has immediacy. And most patients actually read emails, especially if you start them with something like: “I am Barrister William Bartholomew. We have recently learned that your third cousin, twice removed, Langley... uh...Smith, yeah, Smith, has willed you a rather large sum of money. Please send me your checking account number…”

Now, not every eye doctor is a celebrated columnist and I know that, for many of you, writing and communicating with patients can be daunting. But trust me when I say, “If EYE can do it, ‘EWE’ can do it!” (Insert smiley face here.)

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