These three tips will ensure that patients and physicians have a win-win situation.
We are eye care professionals who work to improve the sight of others. Unfortunately, some cultures are not receiving the quality eye care that they deserve. We live in a diverse and multicultural world. We see patients from different ethnic backgrounds every day if we live in large cities or metropolitan areas.
The US Census Bureau has a new prediction for 2020:1 According to estimates, international migration would add 1 person per 34 seconds to the country’s total population. This is what we see in our eye care industry as we examine our patients.
Every day presents us with the opportunity to develop valuable relationships with patients from different cultures. We cannot have long-lasting relationships with multicultural patients without cultural competence.
Cultural competence is a characteristic of health care systems that can provide care to patients with diverse beliefs, values, and behaviors. It also includes the ability to tailor health care delivery to meet these patients’ social, cultural, and linguistic needs.2
Without this competence, it’s impossible to establish a doctor-patient eyecare relationship with multicultural patients.
The Vision Council released in 2020 the results from its annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey analysis.
The complete report can be downloaded at no cost from The Vision Councils website. Other reports that highlight data from different industry segments are also available.
According to the survey, 89% optometric students in academia that responded to it believed it important to place emphasis on diversity, inclusion and equity in all aspects of optometry.
The findings show that there is potential for growth in the optometric industry, academia, corporate optometry and private practices. This includes suppliers and manufacturers as well as other industry groups.
Making small changes to your practice can make a big impact on how you treat patients from different cultures. It will take time to make positive changes and it won’t happen overnight.
Your goal is to eliminate barriers between you, your multicultural patients, and make them feel comfortable and confident sharing vision concerns.
You can make patients feel welcome as an eye care professional.
It is clear that communication with patients is key to success. It is the best way of providing them with exceptional vision care.
What are some steps you can take now to make your practice more multicultural-friendly?
1. Make your patient experience welcoming
Reduce or eliminate language barriers between yourself and your patients. There are two ways to do it:
To the best of your abilities, learn how to conduct an exam in the patient’s native language. The American Optometric Association has a document that can be downloaded called Communicating With Spanish-speaking Patients Step-by-Step.3
Patients will appreciate that you are trying to help them, even if your pronunciation is not perfect.
Rosetta Stone and other online resources can help you learn how to do eye exams in another language. You can also hire multilingual staff or scribes if you don’t have the time.
You should have a basic understanding about your culture to avoid cultural blindness.
Learn about the cultures and worldviews of patients and develop a positive attitude towards them. Also, be open to learning and accepting of their differences.4
Lina T. Aango, OD of Vicle Eye Care in Miami, Florida, stated that there are many variations within a language. Despite Spanish being spoken in most of Latin America’s countries, many words used to describe vision can differ within each region.
A simple word like “eyeglasses” may be called something different in each country. Ante ojos (Mexico), os Culos (Portuguese to Brazil), gafas [Latin America, but interchangeably used for ophthalmic or sunglasses eyeglasses) and so forth. To make patient-doctor communication easier, find the best word to use for each patient.
2. Pay attention to what frame you select
Consider the options you offer for frames to your patients. You should ensure that the selection is in line with the needs of your patients, their facial features, and their optical requirements. The following are some options for frames that cater to different patients:
- Ethnicity eyewear5Coco and Breezy6For African Americans
- La Vida Eyewear7Latinos
- TC Charton8 Asians
It is essential to offer a range of frames in a variety of styles and colors to match patients’ skin tones and facial features. All eyewear is not created equal. Some patients need a wider frame style or longer temples.
3. Offer resources in different languages, and related POP materials
Frame companies such as Coco and Breezy and La Vida Eyewear (Figures 1-5), l.a. Eyeworks, Lindberg, and Etnia Barcelona do a phenomenal job at providing point-of-purchase (POP) materials with imagery that is inclusive and reflects diversity.
Your patients will feel more at home if they can see themselves in the imagery surrounding your practice. Ask your current frame representatives whether they offer POP materials in a variety of models. If they don’t, suggest that they consider this when planning their next marketing campaign.
To increase patients’ comfort, provide eye health resources in digital and print formats.
Below are some great digital resources you can offer your patients:
AllAboutVision.com now offers Spanish translations of its most popular articles in the Eye Conditions & Diseases section.9
The National Eye Institutes National Eye Health Education Program has digital and printed resources available in English and Spanish to low-vision patients.10
TransitionsPro.com11This resource is for your marketing efforts as well as your patients’ home use.
English and Spanish versions of patient brochures
It is essential to bridge the gap between you, your multicultural patients, in order to provide the best possible vision care. Before your patients leave your practice, make sure they feel confident about the vision consultation and eye exam with you.
This is a win-win scenario as happy patients will spread the word about your business, which is the most cost-effective marketing method.
Additionally, you can make a family feel welcome and ensure that they return every year to see their vision needs.
- Census Bureau projects US and global population numbers on New Years Day. News release. US Census Bureau. December 30, 2019. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2019/new-years-2020.html
- Becoming a culturally competent healthcare organization American Hospital Association. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.aha.org/ahahret-guides/2013-06-18-becoming-culturally-competent-health-care-organization
- Communicating with Spanish-speaking patients American Optometric Association. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.aoa.org/AOA/Documents/doctor%20resources/Communicating-with-Spanish-Speaking-Patients.pdf
- What is cultural significance? Why is it important? Blog. Preemptive love. January 23, 2020. Accessed November 8, 2020.
- Ethnicity Eyewear. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.ethnicityeyewear.com/
- Coco and Breezy Eyewear. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://eseyewear.com/catalog/coco-and-breezy
- La Vida Eyewear. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://lavidaeyewear.com/
- TC Charton – Asian Fit Eyewear. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.tc-charton.com/
- All About Vision. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.allaboutvision.com/es/
- National Eye Institute. About NEHEP. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/outreach-campaigns-and-resources/national-eye-health-education-program/about-nehep
- Transitions Drivewear Sun Lenses downloadable marketing materials. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://trade.transitions.com/AllResources/Details/10343