Let’s talk myopia
Eye care professionals share their communication tips – from raising awareness of myopia management to addressing concerns and breaking down misconceptions
15 October 2021
A common thread runs through establishing a successful myopia management offering, from practices starting out in the field to early adopters with extensive experience.
It is not the latest equipment or the largest investment but the way that eye care practitioners (ECPs) talk with patients about myopia management.
Optometrist, Craig McArthur, shared with OT that one of the key challenges in introducing myopia management is patient and parent awareness.
“As myopia management is not even yet mainstream within optometric practice, it is far from being mainstream with regards to the public,” he emphasised.
“Communication is key. The success of myopia management within your practice will largely stand or fall on your ability to communicate this fast moving and, to the layperson, complicated process,” McArthur added. Turning to his tips for engaging with patients and their families on myopia management, McArthur highlighted the need for an individualised approach to communication.
“A one-size fits all approach to communicating myopia simply won’t work. Similar to explaining the benefits and virtues of one varifocal over another, some families will require minute details, clinical studies and ray diagrams. Others simply want the headlines and will make quick decisions,” he said.
There will be families who require more emotional support, while others will simply want the optometrist’s recommendation as an expert.
McArthur recommends that optometrists consider the patient before them and adapt their message accordingly.
“Having the ability to tailor the information and the language to each family is a great skill to develop. Overall, keep things simple and avoid jargon and acronyms,” he shared.
Optometrist Dr Kate Gifford recommends starting a conversation about myopia by explaining its typical childhood progression, its impact on function in the short term, and the increased lifelong risk of eye disease that comes with any level of myopia.
She noted that providing advice on visual environment is good practice when seeing all children – and especially for children who are at risk of myopia.
“Parents are frequently desperate for advice about managing screen time, and you can provide them the good news message that increasing time spent outdoors can help to balance the impact of near work time on their children’s vision – and has other general health benefits too,” Gifford shared.
For optometrist, Sarah Farrant, having informative leaflets on hand and useful information on the practice website to allow families to do research at home is also helpful.
Her advice on communicating about myopia management is straightforward: “Simply engage with every appropriate patient and their families every time.”
Optometrist, Indie Grewal, noted that he prefers to frame conversations about myopia management around the health of the eye rather than focusing on potential pathology.
“It is about maintaining good health now, into adulthood and later life,” Grewal observed.
“A lot of ECPs may not do myopia management because they don’t want to have that negative conversation with parents. I think that is absolutely fair,” he shared.
Further reading on myopia management, including the topics discussed above, can be found on the OT website.
By your side
AOP clinical director, Dr Peter Hampson, shares how the association is supporting members as they navigate myopia management
The AOP has produced guidance that members can provide to patients which explains the risks associated with myopia, management options, and the risks associated with those options.
It is really important when talking to patients about myopia management that a fair and balanced view is given and that the latest good quality evidence is conveyed. That means avoiding both scare mongering or over promising, and making sure that patients don’t feel pressured into making a decision.
As this is still an emerging and rapidly progressing area of practice it is important that members stay up to date and follow good practice, including making sure that they understand the limitations of the treatment option they have chosen.
Looking forward, as the evidence base continues to build, we will see a far greater understanding of which interventions work best and for which patients. I expect that we will increasingly hear calls for myopia management to be available on the NHS and that will be essential if we are to close the current inequality between those who are in a position to afford treatment and those who can’t. Unfortunately, that won’t be an easy argument to make in the current climate and success will require time and a very robust evidence base.
The AOP has developed a consent form to help members explain myopia and potential management options.