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Fear Factor – Can you Overcome Patient’s Fear with Empathy?

Cataract surgery, like most medical procedures, is complex and requires a skilled surgeon to provide amazing outcomes for patients.  Even as the most commonly performed outpatient procedure in the world, cataract surgery is still just that…. surgery.

Surgery might as well be a four-letter word to some patients when they receive their diagnosis and hear of their recommended treatment plan for the first time.  Part of the surgeon’s job is to ensure the patient is informed and comfortable with this treatment plan.  This includes providing a detailed overview of what surgery entails, how to prepare your eyes for surgery, lens options available, risks and potential complications, etc.

How do you effectively share this important information with patients when their first reaction is fear?

In a recent edition of Clinical Minute, Dr. Cynthia Matossian shares the results of a 2022 study regarding the behaviors of cataract surgery patients.  One key conclusion was that “[f]ear was the predominant emotion in one out of every three respondents and was correlated with intention to delay having cataract surgery for as long as possible.”

Fear often leads to confusion, anger, and a flurry of emotions – each of which plays a part in increasing the challenges of educating patients during their cataract consultation.

From our own blog post in early 2022, we hypothesized that “[e]mpathy for our patients is a must — they rarely come primed to hear everything we want to share. We expect a lot from them in a short time! It’s important that practices and educators like our team at Navigate work together to give cataract patients a way forward out of the confusion and other strong emotions they may be experiencing.”

Navigate Patient Solutions was created to help educate patients consistently and comprehensively.  The benefit to doing this through a one-on-one conversation with another human (as opposed to a pre-recorded video or mailed packet) is that our team creates a relationship with the patient centered around empathy.

It is common for patients to thank their Navigator (who they know to be a representative of the practice) for calming their nerves and providing them a safe space to ask questions and gain comfort around their upcoming procedure (often, in the comfort of their own home).

If you aren’t focusing on your patients emotions as a part of their patient experience, you might find your patients going to a practice that will.