Patients need to know that lid hygiene products and services go beyond baby shampoo
Do your patients know what blepharitis is? Do they think Demodex is a type of sales presentation software? Would they confuse MGD with a common Chinese food additive? These may seem like silly questions to eye care professionals, but they’re important to consider for any provider looking to get better results from their practice marketing and patient education efforts.
After all, if patients don’t know their symptoms have a name or a solution—or that you can assist them—they won’t make an appointment or bring it up in the exam room. Consider dry eye disease, for example. Once a little-known and under-diagnosed problem thought to affect mostly menopausal women, dry eye awareness and treatment is now booming, thanks to media, marketing, and patient education campaigns. Treating the condition has become a lucrative business for many eye care practices.
Read on to find out how educating patients about blepharitis—and clearing up misinformation—can benefit your practice as well.
Are patients missing the signs of blepharitis?
Like dry eye and allergies, blepharitis symptoms can be mild and/or easily mistaken for other issues. Proactive patient education can inform people about this common condition affecting the eyelids and lashes, and what you can offer patients who suffer from it. A short, informative video branded with your practice’s name on your website, social media pages, or in an email newsletter can bring new patients in the door:
And don’t underestimate the power of the “fear factor.” Sharing this video about Demodex may scare—I mean, encourage—prospective patients into making an appointment to discuss lid hygiene or dry eye.
The problem with baby shampoo
Getting patients in the door is the first step. But correcting misinformation is often the next step. Twenty years ago, it was common for optometrists to recommend baby shampoo for blepharitis. And in fact, “lid scrubs with baby shampoo continue to be recognized by the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology as a viable lid hygiene option,” pointed out Whitney Hauser, O.D., in the Optometry Times.
Baby shampoo is mild, however, it also contains “an abundance of other ingredients, some of which are benign and others that have proven to be potentially dangerous,” wrote Hauser, who noted that while Johnson & Johnson removed formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane from its No More Tears baby shampoo in 2013, updated formulas still contain ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB), a known allergen.
Lid hygiene has come a long way. Now there are much better options than baby shampoo.
In any case, baby shampoos were not designed for application to the eyes, wrote Hauser, and lid hygiene has come a long way in two decades. There are much better alternatives to recommend to your patients these days.
Better options for lid hygiene
Pre-moistened lid wipes are an easy alternative to baby shampoo. Show this short video in your waiting room or exam room to demonstrate proper hygiene and cleansing technique: “Lid Hygiene: Eyelid Scrub (Pre-Moistened Pad Method)”
Lid scrubs using foams or other cleansers are another option. Hauser recommends hypocholorous acid solutions and tea tree oil formulations to her patients. “I start with over-the-counter (OTC) products first. If patients have a lot of discharge, I move to non-OTC preparations if blepharitis fails to improve in three weeks,” Tracy Schroeder Swartz, O.D., FAAO, told the Optometry Times.
Warm compresses are another common treatment for blepharitis. Swartz recommends a seven-minute compress. “More is required for MGD, but this works to easily remove debris stuck on the lid.”
In-office heat treatments and gland expression are good options for blepharitis patients, along with lid wipes and scrubs.
“Regular in-office heat treatments with gland expression help as well,” noted Christine W. Sindt, O.D., FAAO, who also recommended patients get their lids professionally cleaned. “Like plaque, there is only so much debris and keratin that can be removed at home.”
Her colleagues agree: “Always evaluate the meibomian glands for patients with blepharitis,” recommended Leslie O’Dell, O.D., FAAO. After all, “Not all blepharitis has meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), and not all MGD has blepharitis—lid expression required!” added Milton M. Hom, O.D., FAAO, FACAAI (Sc).
O’Dell also advises O.D.s to take photos, which can help patients’ adherence to treatment.
Offer products in-office
Let patients know that blepharitis is chronic and requires ongoing maintenance. And, be a resource for patients by providing the treatments you recommend. Scott Schachter, O.D., suggests offering products at competitive prices in your office.
Offering lid hygiene products in your practice can build a new revenue stream.
Hauser agrees: “Offering various lid hygiene products in your practice can build a new revenue stream … Providing merchandise designed for lid hygiene allows the patient to make an immediate in-office purchase not unlike what takes place in the optical.” As we approach the end of the year, remind patients with flexible spending accounts (FSAs) that these funds are use-it-or-lose-it and can be applied to eye care products.