As any comanaging optometrist knows, patient education prior to LASIK or other elective refractive procedures is paramount. When the LASIK explosion began, there was a great deal of talk about how best to handle patients who were upset because they just spent thousands of dollars on refractive surgery and were later faced with the harsh reality that they still needed to wear glasses or, worse, developed a serious complication. Optometry pushed for better, more thorough patient education and, over time, patient and doctor expectations have grown closer together. There is less disconnect, which means fewer surprises and, as a result, happier patients.

"12th Annual Refractive Surgery Report"
In this year"s report, the focus in on how to manage patients who are emotional following LASIK complications. Earn two CE credits.

However, no matter how well you educate patients preoperatively regarding a procedures risks or potential shortcomings, and no matter how closely you align their expectations with your own, there will always be unfortunate cases in which outcomes are less than ideal and the patient is, understandably, upset. How do you relate to these patients? Here are some tips we gathered from a group of your peers:

         Be sensitive and show you care.

         Affirm the problem.

         Dont pretend to understand the patients visual experience.

         Dont be pushy.

         Be reassuring.

         Consider what the patient wants.

         Discuss risks vs. benefits.

         Suggest a second opinion.

(For more detail on the above tips, see Soften the Blow of LASIK Realities, October 15, 2001, page 63).

This month marks Reviews 12th Annual Refractive Surgery Report. In past reports, Review has focused a great deal on clinical approaches to post-op problems. (For example, see Turn Around These LASIK Letdowns, October 15, 2001, page 68). This year, however, we are fortunate to hear a different perspective on managing unhappy patients post-op.

In his new role as TLC Visions vice president for clinical services, John Potter, O.D., runs a program that helps eye doctors manage complex refractive surgery patients, with an emphasis on patient advocacy. In this months continuing education program, Do Whats Right When Refractive Surgery Goes Wrong, he describes the stages of grief faced by patients who have had poor refractive surgery outcomes.

Of course, prevention is much easier than intervention. But, when your first line of defensepatient educationfails, understanding these stages as well as the communication strategies proposed by Dr. Potter may help you maintain a better relationship with disappointed patients.

Amy Hellem

Vol. No: 143:10Issue: 10/15/2006