The way we see it, there is always room for improvement.
Maybe you have a solid digital eye strain patient education program. It’s possible you’re feeling pretty good about the ways your office communicates with patients about its symptoms, and they have been receptive to learning ways to relieve it and to products that can keep it bay. Perhaps everything you’re doing to educate your patients about the syndrome has been met with success, but let us ask you, could it be even better?
We think so too.
So, we asked ODs what they are doing to discuss digital eye strain with their patients and what is working for them. If you already have a program that works for you, we’re sure you’ll find one or two bits of information to help you tweak your plan. If you don’t have a formal, informal or even a sort of loosely cobbled-together plan in your practice for discussing digital eye strain with your patients, then whoa Nelly! Consider this your outline and start talking to your staff about building an education program today.
To educate your patients about digital eye strain, you first need to be able to diagnose it. Symptoms are similar to several other health conditions, which can present challenges in its diagnosis: Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes ... watery or dry eyes ... blurred or double vision ... headache ... sore neck, shoulders or back ... light sensitivity ... difficulty concentrating ... trouble keeping your eyes open. So, what is the most effective way of diagnosing digital eye strain? And what do we actually call it?
“I call it ‘computer vision syndrome.' It sounds better,” says Dr. Eric White, of Complete Family Vision Care in San Diego, CA. “There are a lot of ways ECPs diagnose it, but the easiest, most effective way is to talk with your patient.”
Drs. Theodore and Carrie Sees of Rockford Family Eyecare in Rockford, MI, agree with that approach. “You diagnose based on patients’ complaints and case history. We always ask every patient about computer use: how many hours per day, what type of devices used; laptop, desktop, both? Most people already make the connection between eye fatigue and dry eyes and their computer use,” Theodore Sees says.
"Digital eye strain requires doctor-driven dispensing from the chair.” — Dr. Eric White
“This comes back to my favorite thing: doctor-driven dispensing,” White says. “By taking the time in the chair to talk about how much time they are on devices. At the end of their day are their eyes tired? When they look up after work on the computer is the distance blurry? Are their eyes red at the end of the day? Are they getting eyestrain and/or headaches? This tells me they have it. A near-point test will confirm it.”
So digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, is diagnosed with a thorough patient history, but then there is still work to be done to convince many it isn’t just an age-related issue and there are things that can relieve it.
“Every age, literally, comes in complaining of these symptoms,” White says. “It’s what will keep us in business. If you, as the doctor, take time to explain it and that we now have technology to help, I have found that there really isn’t much resistance, especially when you go over the signs and symptoms. It is getting to the point that everyone who spends more than a couple hours a day on a digital device will have eye strain.”
While the Sees have found one age group to be the most resistant to taking the appropriate steps to relieve it. “The mid-30s to early 40s, as people start to enter presbyopia, is the most common age demographic we see having these symptoms. They are also the group most resistant to getting the appropriate eyewear to combat the symptoms,” Carrie Sees says. “They are very resistant to the concept of progressive lenses or computer progressives, thinking they are only for ‘old people.'”
So it all comes back to how you talk to your patients.
SyncHOYA Lens of America
Eyezen and Crizal PrevenciaEssilor of America
Sharper Image TechShield from VSP Opticsvspopticsgroup.com
“It is important to talk on your patients’ level, explaining what it in simple terms,” White says. “This is why I like saying computer vision syndrome.”
“We’ve found that adjusting our language when referring to lenses as computer anti-fatigue lenses, like Sync or Eyezen, we have better success convincing patients to follow through with our suggestions. We explain asthenopia in layman’s term as ‘eye fatigue.' Most people have no problem understanding the link between prolonged computer use and tired eyes,” Carrie Sees says.
“We use the analogy of weightlifting; imagine holding a dumbbell above your head. It’s easy at first but if you do it eight-plus hours a day, it gets tiring. This is similar to focusing your eyes at a screen all day,” Theodore Sees says.
Once a diagnosis is made, it can still take more to convince patients that there are more effective (and realistic) treatments than “resting” their eyes.
“I remind them of the 20/20/20 rule — every 20 minutes take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away,” White says. “But also, by taking the time to explain how we can help them with blue light technology and Transitions lenses that have blue light technology, makes it an easier sell.”
“We educate people on ways to alleviate the symptoms including the use of proper posture, working distance, and taking frequent breaks if possible, yes,” Theodore Sees says. “But also appropriate types of corrective prescriptions. We educate them on ways to prevent dry-eye disease too that often comes as a result of the decreased blink rate people experience working on computers.”
Having the right tools helps as well. “Mostly when I show them in the phoropter the change, it can help, but what I have found is having samples of Prevencia or TechShield help seal the deal. Sample glasses in a +0.50 prescription with Prevencia and one with TechShield help because patients can physically see the difference,” White says. “I also carry computer glasses on me to show how simple it is.”
The Sees keep samples on hand also. “We usually make a trial frame with loose lenses in the appropriate computer prescription to demonstrate the clarity and immediate relief when the eye muscles can relax. We firmly believe in digital progressives, as optics are significantly improved providing the patient with excellent clarity. We explain this with our Tiger Chart, which is a digital near-eye chart that shows patients the difference between vision achieved with standard versus digital progressive glasses,” Carrie Sees says.
Getting your entire staff on board is the last step. “Our most useful tool is a well-trained and knowledgeable optician,” Theodore Sees says. “We specifically prescribe the type of materials, lens enhancements, like anti-glare and blue-light blockers, and lens types in front of our patient directly to the optician and a vast majority agree with our recommendations as evidenced by our higher-than-national-average percentages in lens enhancements including digital lenses and AR coatings.”
More Education Sources
- If you haven’t already, read the Vision Council’s 2016 Digital Eye Strain Report (invmag.us/9163). It is so full of useful information, it would really be pointless for us to repeat it all here.
- “Computer vision syndrome” or “digital eye strain”? Pick a name and stick with it. Alternating between multiple names for the same issue can be confusing to patients. Consistency is key.
- Speak your patients’ language. Lose the fancy medical terms and come up with a way to talk about it in layman’s terms. Find analogies that work for your demographic. We love the Sees’ weight analogy. What comparisons might work for your patient base?
- Take a cue from White and practice “doctor-driven dispensing,” and partner with your optician to recommend the specific lens products patients should be using while working on their devices.
- Have samples of the products you can offer to alleviate symptoms in the office for patients to try and experience firsthand.
- Design a compelling multiple-pair discount or package to incentivize patients to make a pair of computer glasses an easy add-on purchase. Or conversely, if they spend a lot of time in front of screens, an alternate, non-computer pair of glasses.