Educate patients with a seminar at your practice

September 21, 2017
Leslie E. O’Dell, OD, FAAO

Leslie E. O’Dell, OD, FAAO, is the director of Dry Eye Center of PA and Wheatlyn Eye Care in Manchester, PA. Dr. O’Dell lectures throughout the east coast and internationally on dry eye related topics. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Opto

We have all been there, wrapping up the exam of a complex patient with many ocular diseases wishing there was more time to break down each diagnosis and educate the patient a bit more.

We have gotten good at the nutshell explanations: dry eye in a nutshell, glaucoma in a nutshell, diabetic eye disease in a nutshell, cataract in a nutshell, etc.

Depending on the clinic setting, some ODs have more time with patients than others. But for many, patient education gets pushed to a well-educated staff member: a surgical coordinator or a dry eye counselor.

Let’s not forget the power of the white coat. Patients appreciate your time and expertise.

Hosting an educational seminar

A educational seminar is a group meeting led by an expert-you-that focuses on a specific topic. This is a great way to engage your existing patients as well as the community you serve.

For many years, dry eye seminars have been a part of my patient care. The interest from patients is always surprising, and yes, they do want to take time out of their evening to learn more about eye diseases that affect them or a loved one.

Dry eye is not the only eye disease that would draw a crowd-diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, cataract, and macular degeneration are other focus area to consider.

For patients, attending a seminar has numerous benefits: improving communication, gaining expert knowledge, a sense of support and a renewed motivation. Think of how motivating it is to get back to patient care after a great continuing education course. A seminar can give a non-compliant patient the motivation she needs to improve her treatment outcomes.

Having staff attend is another way to build their understanding of eye diseases and can be a motivator for them as well.

Here are steps to create successful event.

 

Choose a date

Choose a date at least one month in the future. This allows for time to generate patients you are seeing day to day to sign up on their way out of your office or during their dispensing visit.  Plan ahead each year and choose several dates to host seminars that allow education on different topics; this could be done quarterly.

Choose a topic

There are so many great topics to consider. As I mentioned, in my practice, dry eye seminars have been well attended, but why stop here? Many of our patients have other conditions they want to learn about.

Consider education seminars focusing on cataracts; these are often conducted in surgical centers. Hosting your own cataract seminar builds a trust and understanding of the referring doctor’s role, your role, in the patient's journey through cataract surgery.

Vision loss is something our patients fear the most. Think about adding seminars on topics such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and macular degeneration. There is less fear as we build trust and understanding with our patients.

Target your audience

Existing patients are the best attendees. Yes, we want to build and grow our practices, but we have to start with the patients we already have. Sharing your passion will ignite their word-of-mouth referrals to friends and family.

If you are hosting a dry eye seminar, invite every patient you see with this diagnosis to attend the upcoming seminar to learn more.

If you have email capabilities, send an email alert to your patients.  

Promote the event on your practice’s social media outlets-Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These are low-cost marketing tools that generate great responses. Social media allows you to create your image‑have fun with this. One way is to have a countdown to the event, or think about using Facebook Live to promote the event.

 

Set a TMAX

Evaluate your space and know the comfortable upper limit of attendees. You don’t want the space to be too crowded because you want your guests to be able to move about and not overheat. If there is a lot of interest and you are at the maximum number of attendees, add another event!

Create your message

Create a PowerPoint presentation. This is a great visual learning aid for seminars. Be sure to have the presentation reflect your message and your practice.

Keep your message simple. Remember that you are talking to the public, not your peers; keep verbiage understandable even if this feels very elementary to you as you create your presentation.

Keep it concise. It can be overwhelming to fit the information into a 25-minute session, but be aware of your patients’ time and keep them wanting more.

Create a schedule

Some patients will arrive early, and some will come in a few minutes late. Have staff on hand to greet them as they arrive; ask patients to sign in to collect names and contact information that can be used for follow-up after the seminar.

Light refreshments are a welcoming touch with flavored waters, a coffee bar, and light health-conscious snacks, such as fruit and cheese and crackers.

Start your “Thank you for coming” and introductions to the practice about five minutes after the scheduled start time.

Stick to a 25-minute presentation with time for questions.

Having staff present at the end of the presentation to schedule patients for exams is a good idea, and many will schedule.

Takeaway materials

Education brochures, doctor profiles, and “refer a friend” cards work great to include folders to give to each attendee. Also include anything you can find with your logo-magnets, pens, eyeglass cloths, etc. This helps keep your practice top of mind for patients.

Remember, education is the key. Share your knowledge and continue to grow your practice. Education seminars are low-cost ways to generate interest from your patients and will help to grow your practice.

Happy planning!

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