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A Brush With Eye Cancer Has Given This OD’s Health Messaging a Personal Touch

And it’s all thanks to Optomap instrumentation…

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A Brush With Eye Cancer Has Given This OD’s Health Messaging a Personal Touch

IT’S A STORY that could have sprung from the imagination of the writer of a medical drama series — heavy on irony, patient-doctor role reversal, courage, creativity and even a happy ending. But it was all frighteningly real, and it happened to Dr. Mary Murphy, owner of Primary Eyecare & Eyewear in St. Louis, MO. Murphy told INVISION her story of being diagnosed with and successfully treated for ocular melanoma, a creative fundraising campaign that came out of the experience, and the personal significance it has added to her messaging to patients about the need for routine eye exams and the benefits of Optomap screenings.

Murphy had arranged for an Optos rep to come in and demo the machine for staff. The rep asked for a volunteer and Murphy obliged. “The picture was taken, and the rep continued to speak, and as I looked at the image on the screen, I could not believe the scary pic. I immediately got up, went to my office and called the local retina institute that I have referred many of my patients to over the years.”

The finding at the initial retinal visit was benign melanoma, with instructions to monitor it. A six-month follow-up turned up evidence of growth, and an official diagnosis of ocular melanoma followed, with plaque radiation therapy recommended. “I was honestly devastated,” recalls Murphy, “not just because of the diagnosis, but because the lesion was very close to my macula, and even the retina doctor could not, or would not, give me any prognosis on my sight after the procedure.”

Not knowing what the future held for her as their eye doctor, Murphy emailed all her patients about her diagnosis. “The outpouring from my patients was humbling and very inspirational for me to … maintain hope. The procedure was a success, and I was most happy to have maintained my 20/20 BCVA with only a small scotoma, not noticed binocularly.”

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THE IDEA, EXECUTION & RESULTS

A few months later, Murphy’s husband celebrated her “cancer free” status with a tattoo of his wife’s eye on his arm and before long plans were afoot to plaster the tattoo on T-shirts, caps, sweatshirts, coffee mugs and more and donate any profit to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation. Jeffrey Meyer, the tattoo artist, gave his blessing and Murphy used the website VistaPrint to bring her ideas to life. “We still have the merch available at my office and highlight it with any trunk show or special event we’re hosting.

Murphy updates patients on her annual followups through Constant Contact emails. “The response from my patients about ocular melanoma and getting the health of their eyes checked in general has been huge. The emails are what have been the most impactful on reaching my patients, and making them think about their eyes, and the need to get an exam.”

Unsurprisingly, her experience has made Optos retinal photos the easiest “sell” at Primary Eyecare. “Optomap…has been exponentially impactful on my practice, and I believe, on my patients. Since purchasing [it], I have diagnosed a brain tumor in a 15-year-old girl, who had been seen by numerous doctors … and turned away with diagnoses of ‘hormonal headaches.’ I have caught at least three other ocular melanomas in patients, and it has been instrumental in growing my patient base with macular degeneration, as the Optomap has such great resolution to detect drusen, and I feel more comfortable following these AMD patients on my own, rather than immediately referring them out to retina doctors.”

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Do It Yourself: Add Optos Retinal Imaging to Your Offerings

  • GET AN OPTOMAP. “You will not regret it,” says Murphy. “It pays for itself in less than six months if you are enthusiastic about it to your patients.”
  • USE PHOTOS IN EXAM ROOMS. This lets patients see diagnoses that are caught on your Optomap. “They are fascinated,” says Murphy.
  • USE IT IN YOUR MARKETING. Patients want to know their doctor is up on the latest technology. “The Optomap has been a referral source unto itself,” she says.
  • PAPERWORK IN ORDER? Make sure any Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage (ABN) requirements are met before the patient leaves the office.
  • HIT THOSE INBOXES. Use email marketing campaigns to promote Optomap screenings to your patients, highlighting the benefits of the test and any discounts or promotions you are offering.

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