Skeptical Patients and Hope

When Dry Eye sufferers receive a diagnosis, but the prescribed treatment provides no relief of symptoms, their skepticism grows, particularly if they have already seen many doctors. As they go from doctor to doctor, their skepticism intensifies. When they finally find a doctor who diagnoses all of their co-morbidities, they either accept their new reality and begin the prescribed course of treatment, or they may reject the diagnoses, because they have become skeptical (even cynical) and find it difficult to trust the doctor. Skepticism in this case is problematic for both the patient and the doctor: for the patient, because they may not realize that they have finally found the care they require and their skepticism acts as a block to their progress; for the doctor, because the patient may resist treatment.

When Patients Lose Hope

When patients are constantly misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed, their skepticism may eventually turn into hopelessness. Living with intense eye discomfort and eye pain can exacerbate their inability to rationally approach their need for care and communicate with their doctors. We have seen time and again patients — not just dry eye patients — but patients with various painful and debilitating conditions, who, after finding some relief under the care of a new doctor, refuse to contact the doctor again when pain or discomfort returns. They think the doctor may have not helped them, even though it is more likely that a new  condition (or co-morbid one) has risen to prominence, with symptoms similar to the one just treated. This is especially true for Dry Eye symptoms.

Doctors may erroneously assume patients who do not return for follow-up care believe themselves “cured” or, at least, symptom free. In actuality, it is more likely these patients do not seek follow-up care because they concluded their diagnosis was inaccurate, or the course of treatment was ineffective. When this happens, patients lose faith in their doctor’s ability to help them.

To more accurately asses how a patient is doing, especially with difficult cases, doctors may opt to contact the patient themselves to check on the patient’s progress rather than relying on the “skeptical” patient to contact them. A simple (though not reimburseable) phone call would go a long way in helping to restore a skeptical patient’s hope in our medical system.