Professional Optometry

Monday, February 1, 2016

It’s hard to believe, but I have had a part in professional optometry for 35 years. By all measures, it has been a great run. Just think about it. Our scope of practice has expanded from a largely refractive, diagnostic, and referral profession … to what we enjoy today: a refractive, diagnostic, treatment and collaborative profession. Today, optometry is widely recognized as an important part of prevention and wellness.

So, just how has professional optometry come so far? Visionary optometrists simply knew in their hearts that their skill level and education made them capable of so much more. Successful therapeutic legislation followed and excellent patient care resulted to bring us to where we are today. We should be thankful for the courage of those who pressed forward, knowing full well that it did not come easy.

We know that nothing that is worthwhile in this life comes easy. We had our obstacles way back when, and we have our obstacles today. Fortunately, our profession is equipped with excellent clinicians who continue to strive for the best possible patient outcomes. We have a track record of excellence. Fundamentally, the key to our success will always lie in the eyes of our patients. It is they who will help champion our progress going forward.

So, enough about the past, and even the present; what does the future look like for our profession? I believe the future is bright, but we must remain vigilant. Access continues to be an issue in some states and some regions. We must work hard to get doctors on medical panels so they can provide a full complement of care to their patients. We need to remember that both vision care and medical care are important. In our opticals, we must continue to address the needs of our patients and prescribe specifically and individually for optimum result. We must be conscious of patient perceptions and of our value proposition. We simply must deliver more than is expected.

Our world today includes healthcare reform, changing patient demographics, unlimited access to information, an online marketplace, and pressure toward impersonal and homogenized care. Our patients deserve better and optometry is perfectly positioned to stand out from the crowd. It is imperative that we deliver the very best we have to offer in whatever practice venue we find ourselves in.

As I see it, professional optometry must continue to move forward. We must press ahead and understand that complacency won’t get it done. Visionary colleagues have led us to where we are today. New visionaries will need to step up to lead us forward. So, let’s challenge ourselves to have a vision … to keep our heads up, our eyes on the ball, and our weight well balanced for maximum impact.

How do you define professional optometry today and in the future? Let us know in the comments below.

The Most Rewarding Job

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mr. Minor

“And then Katrina came. Wiped out everything I had.”

Mr. Minor was a small business owner and, like so many New Orleans residents, had to quickly evacuate in the face of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath 10 years ago, leaving his glasses behind.

Dr. Jarrett Johnson began her career in public health and opened her first eye care practice in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Watch as they describe how those unique experiences brought them and their community together.

Dream Big

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Day in and day out we search for ways to make our lives more efficient. This may come as easily as using Amazon to order a birthday present for a party your child will attend this weekend or may take more effort, like installing a money-saving smart thermostat to control your home environment while you are away.

This search does not end when it comes to health care, and more specifically, to eye care. Patients, or eye care consumers in this case, are constantly seeking ways to obtain eye care in a way that fits into their lives. This brings us to this month’s topic: Access.

Access to eye care may come in a variety of modalities – in-office care with a private practitioner during normal weekday hours, a Sunday afternoon eye exam in a retail setting, an online refraction with a glass of wine during dinner, making a quick stop at the kiosk at your local grocery store after picking up the mandatory milk and eggs – one way or another, patients will find a way to make access to eye care fit into their lives. So, it begs the question: What are we, as private practitioners, in small town America, doing to accommodate these needs?

When we entered optometry school, many of us dreamed of 9-to-5, Monday through Friday. This is not the reality for many of us today. In an effort to increase access to eye care, many of us have increased our office hours to include early mornings, late evenings and weekend hours. But I wonder, how many of us are going off-site? How many of us are delivering, or even open to entertaining the idea of delivering eye care over the Internet?

Many of us provide emergency access via an on-call service. Some of us are even providing patients with our personal cell phone numbers and email addresses. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that many of my peers, like me, have opened the doors of their own home to an eye emergency.

As we approach 2016, I have challenged myself and my associate doctors to think outside the box. How can we increase access to eye care even more? Should we accept more third-party partners – offering care to Medicaid/MediCal patients surely increases access to those who might have limited options? Should we be offering care in nursing homes or assisted living centers? Should we be going directly on-site to large corporations to meet the needs of busy executives? Should we be “setting up shop” at the local ski slope to meet the needs of busy weekend warriors that are looking for an excuse to take a break? Do we need an app for the newest gadget/watch/phone that lets us communicate in real time to patients looking for answers about their red eye?

Let’s challenge ourselves, as an industry, to think really far outside the box. Forget the box existed. Dream. If we intend to remain competitive in today’s environment, increasing access will be a key component of eye care delivery. If we don’t do it, someone else will.