Every Patient Encounter Is a Teachable Moment

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Heidi Pham-Murphy, OD, opened her practice Visions Optometry in Sacramento, California, just three freeway stops away from the VSP headquarters. That wasn’t on purpose, but the proximity has brought a lot of VSP employees to her practice. In fact, being a VSP Global Premier Program practice has brought many patients in—but whether they return depends on the experience and the care they receive.

When Dr. Pham-Murphy purchased the established practice, she became its third owner and the first woman owner. “It’s in an area of highly educated individuals where the first impression needs to match the high expectations. So we have little niceties, such as offering to make patients a cup of coffee and helping them feel comfortable as soon as they walk in the door.”

Influence through education

While those comforts are important, the real opportunity starts with education and influence, she says, which is important to the overall health of each practice but also to the progression of the profession. “The future is really bright. With the aging population comes new areas of opportunity for us to educate patients about the risks and factors in macular degeneration, harmful blue light, diabetes and more.” She uses the latest research to educate her patients. “We’re on the front line. We have the ability to impact people’s choices today that will impact their vision in the future.”

She considers her time with patients in the exam room to be where she can create that bond. “I am talking or asking questions the whole time. I want patients to understand my philosophy, learn how to mitigate their risk factors and understand their choices for the clearest vision.”


Keep learning

The patient care successes that she’s had over the years inspire her to keep learning, too. For example, she recently saw a new patient who came to her specifically for a dry eye consultation. “She had seen three or four doctors already and said that despite using artificial tears, her eyes hurt every time she tried to read. She told me she felt like her life was over, which is very discouraging.” In fact, the patient had resigned herself to a lifetime of discomfort when she heard from a friend about the treatment at Dr. Pham-Murphy’s practice. She worked the patient through a dry eye protocol, and the patient called back a week later to say how much better she was feeling. “I saw her a month later, and I almost didn’t recognize her. I thought she looked so much younger; she said she was happy. What a difference that made.”

There have been so many stories like that—from the Sjogren’s patient who said she could finally get out of her car and watch from the sidelines while her daughter played soccer to the people whose whole world expands with their first pair of eyeglasses. “These are the stories that teach and encourage us to take risks in our practice by staying on the leading edge of care,” she says.

Patients love value

That extends to the products that patients can acquire. Being a Premier Program practice means that Dr. Pham-Murphy can offer her patients a great value on their eyewear. “We have a large collection of eyewear from Marchon—Chloe, Calvin Klein, Flexon, Ferragamo, Calvin Klein Jeans and Longchamp. These are all doing very well, and we make sure that we select distinctive frames from each line so that there’s a broad and unique collection.”

She is also thrilled with what VSP Global is doing to bring vision development and sports performance into the practice with its investment in RightEye, an eye-tracking technology company. The game-based tests use a sophisticated database to generate an instant report with details about the person’s visual speed and accuracy, visual processing, depth perception, dry eye and more. “We will be able to identify those children who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities who may have visual performance problems,” she says.

“When you educate patients, you plant seeds that you can continue to nurture, and eventually, those seeds will grow.”