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Patients Remember Most How You Made Them Feel

As we head toward the holidays and the close of 2022, keep this thought in mind: Customer service is about empathy.

That statement – from Chaz Van de Motter, co-founder and chief executive officer at the Arizona-based company Social Cycle – summarizes exactly what our team at the Mind-Eye Institute strives to put into practice daily – empathetic patient service. And we do so because we have the utmost respect and concern for patients who enter through our doors. As many readers of this blog already know, Mind-Eye patients are not typical of those who make optometry appointments for regular eye-health evaluations or eyeglass-prescription changes. Our patients are those who suffer the symptoms of brain injury, stroke, or other neurological disorders. They are fragile, easily startled, oftentimes struggling with light and sound sensitivities, vertigo, headache pain, brain fog and concentration issues, even an inability to process – make sense of — their surrounding environment.

Ask almost any person you know about poor customer service, and he or she will likely relate a particularly unpleasant, customer-related experience encountered while shopping at a retail store, dining at a restaurant, or trying to dispute a bill via phone. These are exactly the kinds of experiences the Mind-Eye Institute does not want to duplicate. We provide our patients with patient advocacy — not frustration and discouragement.

In the Institute’s latest manuals, we ask our technicians and other team members to “assume every patient is fragile,” hypersensitive, and subject to debilitating symptoms involving disrupted or undeveloped brain circuity. In fact, during patient testing, we require our technicians to:

  • Remove background clutter that can distract or disturb patients.
  • Talk softly and ask patients about their sensory sensitivities before switching on lights.
  • Carefully observe to determine whether a patient is becoming too fatigued to progress in
    testing protocols and, if so, allowing the patient to sit and recuperate before resuming.
  • Take special care to warn patients before making changes in the environment around
    them, such as turning on room lights without warning, suddenly coming toward their face
    to put on or remove eyeglasses, or simply making sudden movements like waving an
    arm or hand near them.
  • Listen to patients, because, as the manual states, “they will tell you – or show you – when they are too stressed or reaching their breaking point.”
  • Divide a particularly exhausting testing session into two separate appointments when convenient for the patient.

Meanwhile, our patient advocates are on hand to answer questions or further explain follow-up eyeglass-wear and therapy instructions before patients leave the clinic. The intent is to ensure patients are comfortable about what has been prescribed them and what they must do at home to continue progressing in their journey to recovery.

The Mind-Eye clinic is not cluttered with purposeless chatter, distractive wall hangings and pictures, and unnecessary sounds. In fact, patients often remark about our clinic’s “calming atmosphere,” with its low lights, whispered conversations, and quiet, unobtrusive staff movements. And people who complete our online questionnaire normally receive quick callbacks from our patient advocates – oftentimes within an hour or less of submitting the survey.

Excellent patient care is a significant component of the overall care experience for our patients. We avoid startling our patients, testing them past their tolerance ranges, or aggravating the symptoms of their disordered senses. Are we perfect? No! But we are always working toward perfection and, of course, exceeding patients’ needs.

The Mind-Eye Institute takes pride in avoiding mistakes with sensitive patients whose brains cannot tolerate overload. Knowing that the retina is composed of brain tissue and remains the primary portal for information entering the brain, the Mind-Eye Institute achieves its clinical successes through use of highly individualized “brain” glasses. These glasses vary the amount, intensity, and angle of light passing through the retina in order to bring sensory systems into synchronization; alter patients’ awareness, attention to, and understanding of what is happening around them; and eventually help restore visual processing skills.

But no matter our clinical outcomes, patients most remember how well we listened to them, understood them, and made them comfortable. In the words of poet and author Maya Angelou, People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Deborah Zelinsky, O.D.
Founder, Executive Director of Research
The Mind-Eye Institute