How do I…

Introducing OCT to patients

Optometrist and owner of Peter Ivins Eye Care, Craig McArthur, shares advice on raising awareness of OCT throughout the patient journey

Craig McArthur

We have various touch points for mentioning optical coherence tomography (OCT) to our patients and try to do this before they come in to the practice.

Generally, OCT is introduced to each and every one of our patients when they book an eye examination appointment with us. If they are booking an appointment in person, they will be given a brochure. If they are booking online or over the phone, they will receive information in an email or a text message with a video link. This journey has not been designed to introduce OCT to our patients, but to introduce them to our Eye Care for Life monthly payment scheme that we offer, which includes OCT. It means that OCT is mentioned to each and every patient from the very beginning.

Every member of staff has a role to play in introducing and discussing OCT to patients. While for reception staff, their role is to ensure that patients receive a brochure, email or text at the time of booking, each of which features information on OCT; for support staff and dispensing opticians conducting the scans, their role is to explain the process and technique in more detail. Finally, the role of the optometrist is to reinforce the importance of the scan, perform the interpretation and make the appropriate recommendation for future repeat OCT scans.

New patients

All new patients to our practice are offered the whole plethora of additional examinations that are available at our practice, including OCT. These tests are offered free of charge at the first appointment – we see this as a marketing exercise that allows us to showcase our services to new patients. With OCT, we emphasise that it is not provided by the majority of practices and in Scotland it is not funded by the NHS.

While we believe a single OCT is highly valuable, serial analysis of multiple OCT scans over many years is much more useful clinically and this is explained to our patients, who are all invited to join Eye Care for Life.

Joining Eye Care for Life is not compulsory and therefore those who opt not to can simply pay-as-you go. In these cases, while OCT is discussed within the patient journey, it is the optometrist who decides whether an OCT is advised. Our practice recommends OCT scans on all patients over 60, patients with a family history of glaucoma, in diabetics and hypertension or in high myopia.

OCT explanations

We are lucky to have had OCT in practice since we opened our doors in 2010, so the patient journey that created has always taken this technology into account.

When discussing OCT with the patient, you must make a spectacle of it; it’s all about a little bit of theatre. We have found that using 3D scans of the eye is a good way to show off OCT to patients and illustrate to them how the technology works. We do so in the test room on 55 inch monitors.

We have a poster showing what common conditions look like on an OCT scan, which allows us to visually compare the patient’s, hopefully, normal eye. This has proven to be a useful and effective discussion driver. More in depth explanations are offered using Captiv8, a software platform that offers animations of common eye conditions and examination techniques.

We also try to use analogies when explaining OCT to patients. I have a series of analogies I use depending on the age of the patient and the interest they express. One of these, for example is that ‘instead of looking at the surface of a table, in OCT we are looking through the grain of the wood that makes the table and looking for subtle flaws.’

When it comes to integrating OCT into practice, communication is key and I would therefore encourage practice owners to task their top communicators with leading on discussing OCT with patients initially. This will allow you to iron out any kinks with the approach first before training the wider team.

Enthusiasm is important when discussing OCT with patients in my opinion. Making the point that OCT is cool and very impressive is imperative.

Our aim is for the patient to leave reassured, knowing their eyes are healthy and that they have learned something. My hope is that the patient goes home talking about their eye test and how interesting it was. Word-of-mouth is still our biggest source of new patients, so creating the ‘wow’ factor in everything we do helps drives referrals.