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    Dealing with nightmare patients

    The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.

    All of us have had to deal with patient perceptions on many subjects: insurance, contact lenses, spectacles, surgery, appointments. Anyone in practice has stories, and we all get better at dealing with these perceptions as we encounter them. In talking with some colleagues about demanding patients, I wondered what my life would be like if the patients were right—about everything. 

    In the patient’s world

    Let’s start with insurance. In the “patients’ world,” my staff could read minds and magically know what the patient’s insurance plan covered upon presentation at the front desk. My staff would do this even if the Internet were down and when patients refused to divulge their Social Security numbers. And of course, we could know what their vision plans were based solely on the flashing of flashing their medical insurance cards. 

    Related: Patients say the darndest things

    Patients could arrive “relative to” their appointment times but be seen immediately without any wait whatsoever. The exam would take five minutes, and dilation would never be required. They would be able to see the doctor at all times, even weekends, without planning ahead because our schedule would accommodate them, of course. 

    Patients could be rude to my staff without consequence, refuse testing they felt was unnecessary, and leave a mess in my lanes. They would leave without buying materials because glasses and contact lenses are just as good from the Internet. They would return when they could not see with their Internet glasses or contact lenses, so we would see them for free. 

    Patients would wear the contact lens however they desired (because lenses never expire), rarely clean them, and blame the doctor when the lenses become uncomfortable. They would read without reading glasses and complain of headaches. They would complains of red, itchy eyes, and the grocery stores would never have enough Visine Clear Eyes on hand for the red-eyed masses.

    While this seems both funny and sad—and certainly uncharacteristically pessimistic for me—I am now on a quest to modify these impressions one patient at a time. It is quite a challenge, but I think I can do it (one patient at a time).

    As doctors we should doctor, but often we are caught up in computer problems, insurance problems, spectacle lab challenges, and other little fires that burn away at the edge of our happy days. A much wiser friend once told me, “Surround yourself with people smarter than you to fix that stuff.” Message received loud and clear. Get a list of contacts to guide you with little fires, and make sure your staff knows where the list is located. 

    Next: My Reese Witherspoon smile

    Tracy Schroeder Swartz, OD, MS, FAAO
    Tracy Schroeder Swartz currently practices at Madison Eye Care Center in Madison, Alabama. She serves as Education Chair for the ...

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