Do We Still Need The Doctor?

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO January 23, 2015

Millennials—those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s—represent a growing percentage of most of our patient bases. The Millennial Generation has ever increasing access to information via the internet and social media. They come to us with expectations and opinions which have been shaped, largely, by organizations seeking to sell product, all of which makes it more difficult to consult with our patients and to get them to follow our recommendations. Technology is being trumpeted as the answer; the critical role of the doctor is less apparent.

That last part did not feel great to write, but I/we need to accept the reality that our millennial patients think differently, act differently, and make decisions regarding who they do business with differently.

Dr. Scot Morris discusses a number of technology and consumer-based trends in a column that appeared in  the December 2014 issue of Optometric Management, entitled “Eye Care: The Next Generation.” He suggests that because of “the continuous evolution of digital handheld technology, social media, and most recently, wearable technology, that the consumer will soon dictate healthcare delivery.” He concludes by viewing these technological advancements as a “tremendous opportunity” if we (doctors) are willing to change with the times.

I couldn’t agree more with the assertion that doctors need to embrace change. But just how, or what are we supposed to change?

Doctors realize that an examination is much more than just the summation of a series of tests. We know that no one test or evaluation stands alone. Prescriptions must be balanced and binocularity must be considered.  Our goal is not clarity alone; it is also comfort and performance. We understand that objective input must be tempered by subjective response.  Proper diagnosis and treatment requires a balanced review of all input and a personalized professional recommendation to achieve the best results.

I believe that we have a tremendous challenge/opportunity to educate our patients regarding what technology does and does not do. If we truly believe that the best patient outcomes result from the fusion of new technology with the doctor’s recommendation, then we need to emphasize this at every opportunity. The limitations of technology and the critical role of the doctor must be addressed on the telephone, in the exam room, in industry, in print, and certainly on the internet.  If we want our patients to have a better understanding of eye care, we must make it a priority to tell them.

As I see it, we are experiencing an explosion in information, technology, and social media. Consumers (patients) are getting much of their information about eye care from sources other than their doctors.  I do not believe that consumers should completely dictate healthcare delivery. We still need the doctor to provide guidance in diagnosis, assessment and treatment, while acknowledging choice, convenience and care... all of which are important to our millennial patients. I believe we have a golden opportunity to lead our patients to a better understanding of the delivery of eye care as we seek to preserve and maximize their most precious commodity, their sight.

I would love to hear experiences you have had with your millennial patients. What are you doing differently to stay engaged with this growing segment of our patient population? Leave a comment below.

Tags:  millennials

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