The first month of the new year is almost coming to an end and it’s time to reflect on your business and your customers. In order to plan ahead for the rest of the year, a great place to start is by getting to know your customers better. “Get to Know Your Customer Day” comes around on the third Thursday of each quarter to remind businesses to reach out to their clients and get to know them better. Here’s a simple guide on the importance of understanding your patient’s family history in order to better care for them.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY MEDICAL HISTORY
A family medical history is a record of health information about a patient and their close blood relatives. A complete family medical history will include detailed information from three generations of relatives which include any siblings, parents, aunts or uncles, nieces or nephews, grandparents, and cousins.[i]
This medical history is important for health care professionals because it includes a lot of useful information that will better help understand their patient’s health. This is because families have many factors in common such as their genes, environment, and lifestyle. These factors can give clues about various medical conditions that run in the family – and that your patient may be more susceptible to.[ii]
For eye health care professionals, a family medical history is extremely important to understand your patient’s eye health. It’s a great opportunity to build a long-lasting relationship with your patients because they will rest assured knowing that your practice is willing to track their long-term eye health rather than just fix any short-term or immediate problems. As a practice, the more you know about your patient’s health and lifestyle, the easier it is to build a profile on them in order to recommend different products and services in the future that will benefit them such as multiple pair selling or specialized frames and lenses. Many patients may also not be aware of the role genetics play on their eye health. People may be wary of their family’s history of bigger health issues such as diabetes, heart disorders, or cancer. They may not pay close attention to how these bigger health issues may affect their eye health, which is why they likely ignore any symptoms that may present themselves throughout their life. Keeping your patients informed on genetics eye disorders will allow them to better track their eye health and make it more likely to visit your practice for check-ups and eye exams.
HEREDITARY OCULAR DISEASES
There are more than 350 hereditary eye diseases including colorblindness, glaucoma, corneal dystrophies, retinitis pigmentosa, and retinoblastoma. The University of Arizona College of Medicine has compiled a highly extensive database containing hereditary ocular diseases from A to Z to make it easier for health care professionals and patients alike to find background and historical data about each condition, how the genes are passed from one generation to the next, and links to more technical medical information and other useful resources.[iii]
Genetic factors play an important role in the cause of various eye diseases, including diseases that can lead to blindness among infants, children and adults. More than 60% of cases of blindness among kids are caused by inherited eye diseases such as congenital cataracts, congenital glaucoma, retinal degeneration and other eye malformations. On the other hand, 40% of patients with certain types of strabismus (ocular misalignment) have a family history of the disease. The exact gene responsible for this has not been identified but researchers are looking for ways to determine the exact cause.[iv]
Genetics also plays a role in vision problems that may occur in healthy eyes and many genetic ophthalmologic researchers now have evidence that even the most common vision problems among children and adults such as crossed-eyes, lazy eye, astigmatism, and refraction errors (nearsightedness and farsightedness) are genetically determined. Refraction errors are one of the most common vision problems that can occur that any age. However, a better understanding of your patient’s family history with this can help you treat them at an earlier age.
TREATMENT AND EARLY DETECTION
In order to properly treat any genetic eye disorders, it’s extremely important to advise your patients to book regular appointments for eye exams. A minimum of one eye exam a year can make a big difference for their eye health. Early detection is also crucial for children and adults who are may be more susceptible to severe forms of eye diseases through their family’s history. It’s also important to monitor other health signs in your patient’s family medical history such as diabetes. A patient with a family history of diabetes is more likely to encounter eye health problems such as diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.[v]
THE BENEFITS OF KNOWING YOUR PATIENT’S FAMILY MEDICAL HISTORY
Knowing your patient’s family medical history is a win-win situation for you and your customer. As a practice, you can provide better care for your patients by providing special attention to the areas that concern them most, depending on what their family medical history says about them. On the other hand, your patients will be most likely return to your practice for future check-ups knowing you have more in-depth knowledge of their eye health and medical background. It’s also an opportunity to bring in more customers by advertising this specialized service to your patients so they can bring in their other family members for check-ups.