Educating glaucoma patients about how to use their drops is the only communication factor that improves adherence—yet such education occurs during only 14% of visits, according to a new study that video recorded provider-patient interactions. 

“Whether physicians educated patients about how to administer their drops during visits was associated significantly with both whether patients took their drops on time and whether they took the correct number of doses each day,” wrote the authors, whose article appeared online in Ophthalmology. “This suggests that providers should consider taking the time to educate patients about how to administer their drops.”

Explaining how to administer drops included statements such as: telling patients to lean back their head; suggesting they use a mirror; giving them tips on how to get the drop in the eye; and telling them how long to wait between administering two different eye drops. 

Patient education of any kind about glaucoma occurred during two-thirds of the visits, but was not significantly associated with whether patients took their doses on time during the 60-day period after the visit. Also, educating glaucoma patients about side effects, adherence or the purpose of the drops didn’t significantly affect whether patients took their doses on time either.

Another significant finding: African-American patients were significantly less likely to take the prescribed number of doses each day. “This finding emphasizes the importance of providers educating black patients about … when to take their glaucoma medications each day and how many doses to take each day,” the authors wrote.

Sleath B, Blalock SJ, Carpenter DM, et al. Ophthalmologist–patient communication, self-efficacy, and glaucoma medication adherence. Ophthalmology. 2014 Dec 24. [Epub ahead of print.]