What Do Patients Expect of Health Care Providers? Patient Perceptions and Expectations of Professionalism in Optometry Practice in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  •  Cassim Madadi    
  •  Talia Perumal    
  •  Celekosini H. Sibiya    
  •  Nosihle R. Dubazana    
  •  Uzair H. Amod    
  •  Zandile N. Ntshangase    
  •  Rekha Hansraj    
  •  Diane B. van Staden    


BACKGROUND: Professionalism, which includes factors such as attire, hygiene, communication skills, compassion and empathy; has not been previously investigated in the discipline of Optometry and yet is known to be influential in building patient-practitioner relationships.

METHODS: This study was conducted at public and private eye care facilities in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa. Convenience sampling was used to select 600 participants and data collected with a self-administered questionnaire. Data was analyzed using SPSS version 25.

RESULTS: Attire was considered a competency indicator by the majority of participants (70.1%). Practitioners who exercised good hygiene were regarded as being more competent (73.3%). More than half (57.4%) of the respondents perceived an optometrist who wears glasses as more professional and likely to better understand their condition. A practitioner who smelled of cigarette smoke was considered unprofessional (67.3%). The use of simple terms was preferred by 88.5%, while 75.6% respondents felt that an optometrist who introduces themselves and maintained eye contact is more reliable. Most respondents (65%) believed that an optometrist who considers their lifestyle and finance was more trustworthy.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, physical appearance and other factors such as hygienic practices, communication skills and empathy appear to be important contributors to patient perspectives of professionalism in optometrists. Health care practitioners would therefore do well to consider these factors and soft skills in advancing the public’s perception of them and apply them to routine practice to build trust with patients.

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