I recently received an abject lesson in the value and importance of point-of-care communication. I trust my eye doctor implicitly; the Lasik surgery he performed on me more than 10 years ago returned my middle-aged eyesight to a sharpness I hadn’t experienced since the second Nixon administration. 

So when he told me I had a big cataract in the left eye and a smaller one in the right, but that he could use his laser to help take them out — and that he could install lenses that would mean I’d never again need to use reading glasses — I signed up right away.

Like any good doctor, he wanted me to be a fully informed patient. And like any good patient, I made myself a pain in the neck by asking a million questions. He was exceedingly patient and thorough with his answers. He explained the process, warning me of the things that could potentially go wrong while explaining the benefits. He told me that what was once an almost impossible surgery was now something that, thanks to cutting-edge technology, was completed in a couple of hours. Science had been kind to cataract patients. 

But while the eye doc had his science bases covered, he fell woefully short on the arts. After our talk, he sat me down to watch a video about the procedure. Video as in, a video cassette. Probably Betamax. Featuring people getting into and out of Chrysler LeBarons. The soundtrack sounded like Ace of Base, and I’m pretty sure there was an endorsement from sitting President Bill Clinton. Not only was the video outdated, all of the testimonials were from patients who looked to be 80 years old. Like everyone else, I want my fellow-sufferers to be within 25 years or so of my age; they should look like me, not my in-laws.

“That video looks kind of old,” I told the doc. “So do the patients. Is your equipment as outdated as your video? And does this mean I’m some kind of freakish early-onset cataract patient and that I’m going to die young? And while I’m ranting, why do you still use a fax machine?”

Not only was the video outdated, all of the testimonials were from patients who looked to be 80 years old.

He seemed surprised that I got all that from a video. But that’s what bad POC communication can do. And good POC comms can make a jittery patient docile.

It all worked out. I’m writing this without glasses, something I haven’t been able to do in 10 years. But next time I agree to go under the knife, I’ll ask to see the video first.