Published in Ocular Surface

How the Dry Eye Technician Impacts the Patient Journey

This is editorially independent content supported by advertising from Sun Ophthalmics
7 min read

Join Damon Dierker, OD, FAAO, and Ramón Gómez, CMA, to discuss how dry eye technicians can positively impact the patient journey to improve compliance.

During this session of Dry Eye Fireside Chat, Damon Dierker, OD, FAAO, is joined by Ramón Gómez, CMA, to discuss the impact of dry eye technicians on patient care and how to make that impact meaningful and effective.

How technicians impact the clinical workflow

Dry eye is increasingly prevalent—but with this prevalence comes a variety of tests and treatments to fit every patient, at every stage of the disease process.
"Catching" these patients early increases the likelihood of therapies being effective, making the condition more manageable before it reaches a point where more advanced treatments are required and interfere with their ophthalmic care—whether they are surgical patients, glaucoma patients, or even contact lens fits.
Being aware of disease risk factors and symptoms can help techs identify these patients and allow them to actively educate the patient about their condition and their treatment plans and ultimately, elevate the patient experience within the practice.
Out of all the staff at an eyecare practice, patients are likely to spend the most time interacting with technicians. Therefore, they are most likely to be a memorable aspect of their visit as well as a patient’s greatest resource. These interactions offer opportunities to better understand a patient and their condition, educate patients, provide higher-quality care, and improve the flow of the clinic.

How dry eye technicians can improve patient care

The patient journey is a team effort. Doctors are limited in their interactions with patients and must be able to rely on a technician to identify previously unknown risk factors or symptoms and bring them to their attention.
Patients may not bring up symptoms or issues they believe are unrelated to the reason they’ve made their appointment. Taking advantage of the opportunity to ask patients questions can ensure the doctor gets the information they need in order to make an accurate and complete diagnosis and avoid revisiting failed treatment scenarios.
Mr. Gómez encourages technicians to see patients as an active part of their own eyecare, not just as an examination—an educated patient is a compliant patient, and thus is more likely to be a happy patient.

The dry eye technician's role in the patient journey

Mr. Gómez described a case of a patient who had been referred to the plastics clinic for a bilateral upper blepharoplasty. The patient was an 89-year-old female who was referred with complaints of watery, irritated eyes and eyelids.
Her complaints didn’t necessarily match her diagnosis of dermatochalasis, and after performing meibography, tear breakup time (TBUT) testing, and a meibomian gland evaluation, he flagged her results for the ophthalmologist. The patient was diagnosed with dry eye disease, meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), blepharitis, and atopic dermatitis.
Her new treatment plan included topical and lid hygiene treatments as well as warm compresses, and within 2 weeks the patient’s condition had dramatically improved—without the need for a blepharoplasty.
Understanding the red flags and risk factors can help the eyecare technician play a major role in improving the quality of care provided to patients, whether that means assisting the physician with identifying the necessary treatments—or avoiding unnecessary ones.

What technicians can address during patient intake

During patient intake, a technician can:
  • Ask about a patient’s condition and type of dry eye (if they know).
  • Ask about past therapies.
  • Learn more about the patient's symptoms.
  • Understand the patient’s expectations for treatment.
  • Ask if the patient has other complaints and symptoms that may not have been previously mentioned.
  • Identify red flags, symptoms, and risk factors.
This information can then be relayed to the doctor to ensure they are aware of any relevant conditions that may impact patient treatment.

What should techs avoid during patient counseling?

Mr. Gómez highlights that there is a fine line between identifying red flags and diagnosing. During patient counseling, the goal should be to educate the patient without reaching a definitive conclusion about the next steps.
During patient counseling, a technician should not:
  • Make any diagnoses.
  • Recommend treatments from the get-go.
Technicians play an integral role in patient education. Due to little awareness of dry eye, patients may think the symptoms they are experiencing are normal or untreatable.

The value of patient education and counseling by techs

As the patient’s journey progresses, the technician may be responsible for educating the patient and helping them understand their disease process, why a particular treatment is being recommended, and how it can benefit them.
It is crucial to educate patients about the testing they receive and the different parts of the eye being examined to help them connect the dots between their symptoms, habits, and environmental conditions. This can lead patients toward a deeper understanding of their condition and how to make better use of the resources and treatments available to them.
This process makes for a more compliant, better-educated, and happier patient.

Following up with dry eye patients

Mr. Gómez encourages technicians to advocate for their patients in several ways. He cites the importance of following up with prior authorizations, making callbacks to the pharmacy, and communicating with patients to ensure they receive their prescribed medications or recommended treatment.
It is also important to confirm that patients understand their treatment, know what to do, and provide them with the educational materials and resources needed to adhere to the recommended therapy and understand their goals.


Whether it’s a dedicated dry eye clinic, an ophthalmology clinic, or a private optometry practice, ophthalmic and optometric technicians play a major role in the dry eye patient journey.
Helping patients understand their conditions and their treatment plans is a crucial component of enhancing patient compliance and the ultimate success or failure of the treatment plan.
Mr. Gómez’s final pearl? “Technicians will have a bigger role to play as we treat more and more patients,” he said. “You’re there, you’re wearing the scrubs, you’re the resource to the patient—and you’re the one who will see this patient before and after their appointment.”
“You’re the one they’re going to remember.”

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Damon Dierker, OD, FAAO
About Damon Dierker, OD, FAAO

Dr. Dierker is Director of Optometric Services at Eye Surgeons of Indiana, an adjunct faculty member at the Indiana University School of Optometry, and Immediate Past President of the Indiana Optometric Association. Dr. Dierker is the Co-Founder and Program Chair of Eyes On Dry Eye, the largest event for eyecare professionals in the industry. He has made significant contributions to raising awareness of dry eye and ocular surface disease in the eyecare community, including the development of Dry Eye Boot Camp and other content resources across dozens of publications.

Damon Dierker, OD, FAAO
Ramón Gómez, CMA
About Ramón Gómez, CMA

Rómon Gómez, CMA, is a technician at Eye Specialty Group, an ophthalmology practice with an emphasis on cataract and refractive surgeries in Memphis, TN, with multiple locations that cover a variety of sub-specialties.

He is the manager of the Premium Services Department, which covers laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK), plastics and aesthetics, implantable collamer lens (ICL), clear lens extraction (CLE), and dry eye. He also performs counseling and technician duties and has been a tech for almost 15 years, most of which was spent in the dry eye space.

Ramón Gómez, CMA
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