Article Date: 2/1/2010

Practice pulse TIPS, TRENDS & NEWS YOU CAN USE

Optometry Supports Earthquake Relief Efforts in Haiti

MISSION O.D.S WITNESS DEVASTATION FIRSTHAND

Lou Mancinelli, Contributing Editor

While emergency relief services are the top priorities, thousands of individuals in Haiti are in urgent need of eyeglasses and simple medical and optometric care as a result of last month's earthquake, according to members of Optometry Giving Sight (OGS).

“There aren't many details yet as the plans are still being developed,” says Kristie Madara, a spokesperson for OGS. “Clearly, the immediate need in Haiti is food, water and emergency medical care.”

“The Caribbean Optometrists Association (CARIO) has started a fund to provide relief to our unfortunate neighbors in Haiti,” says CARIO President Nigel St. Rose, BSc (Hons), MCOptom.

According to Madara, OGS is leading collaborative efforts to develop a plan and to raise funds with partner organizations the American Optometric Association, Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH), The International Centre for Eyecare Education and CARIO.

A 16-member VOSH-Ohio team was on a volunteer mission in Hinche, Haiti 75 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake when it struck. VOSH's members had already provided care for over 2,500 patients, says mission coordinator Barbara Plaugher.

“School children were screened and adults from the surrounding villages presented themselves to the compound to have their eyes screened for distance acuity, examination by autorefractor, a health exam by an optometrist, selection of glasses if needed, and fitting of these glasses,” says Plaugher.

The “strange sensation”

After clinic hours on Tuesday, Jan. 13, the earthquake hit Port-au-Prince. Says Plaugher, “Not knowing what was going on, it was a strange sensation. We did not feel the earth shake. However, there were several bouts with vertigo.” A carpenter who remained at the compound where the clinic was located reported the house moving and a calendar swaying on the wall.

“We soon found out of the mass devastation as Father Glenn [a priest from the local mission] invited the team over to his house to watch CNN,” says Plaugher.

“This might be my first mission where I had full confidence that every patient we saw needed care,” says Mark Pifer, O.D., a member of the VOSH-Ohio team. Pifer says he has been on over 10 missions and Haiti has more need for care than any other nation.

Plaugher says the group left behind loads of supplies — including thousands of pairs of eyeglasses — which will be used by the next team to provide care in the region.

“What the disaster has done for the quality of optometric care [in the region] is yet to be seen,” says St. Rose. “But I can tell you, that several of the regional optometrists associations have already begun to work more closely together, and this will continue as we try to establish joint missions to Haiti.”

Looking forward

“When things settle down we will be putting together a mission to deliver optometric services and spectacles,” says St. Rose. “Depending on the level of funding, we will consider helping restore eye clinics and the training of optometric staff, perhaps even scholarships to schools within the region.”

“I don't think any of us would hesitate to return,” says Dr. Pifer.

VOSH sends teams of optometrists on missions to host sites to provide quality optometric care for underprivileged people of the world. For more information about how to donate or offer your services visit: www.givingsight.org/how_we_help/project_reports/haiti.asp.

If You Hate Discussing Fees With Patients …

REAP BENEFITS BY DELEGATING

Bob Levoy, O.D. Roslyn, N.Y.

■ You're not alone.
Many (if not most) optometrists dislike discussing fees, especially complaints about fees, payment options, and most certainly those that involve “haggling” in any form. Fees that patients readily accept and pay cheerfully and promptly are, of course, another matter.
Action step: An increasing number of optometrists are delegating such discussions to staff members — who are usually women — and reaping numerous benefits. Among them:
Patients, many of whom are women, report being more comfortable discussing fees with a woman — or as one working person to another — than with a doctor, male or female. “Staff members are more understanding,” is the way many patients express it in focus groups.
Employees are less likely than is the doctor to make concessions, round off fees, or offer discounts to the doctor's friends. Optometrists and staff members agree: Total income is higher when staff members make financial arrangements.
Collections improve when the person making the initial arrangements is also responsible for collections. This policy averts any “The doctor said I shouldn't worry about the bill” type excuses for not paying in a timely manner.
What's the best way top delegate this task? Simply explain your findings and recommendations to patients, and then refer them to a staff member who can review the charges involved and answer questions. Delegate fee discussions selectively or totally, depending on how much you dislike the task.
Reality check: Surprisingly, some staff members also dislike fee discussions and the accounts receivable in such offices are invariably higher than necessary. This can be avoided by asking job applicants. “How do you feel about asking people for money?”

M.D.s Vote on Most Significant Advances of Past Decade

ANTI-VEGF TREATMENTS TOP THE LIST

■ A majority of ophthalmologists agreed that anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) treatments for “wet” AMD were the most significant advancement in the last decade, according to an online survey conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Almost 52% of the M.D.s cited anti-VEGF treatments. About one quarter (23.9%) said optical coherence tomography (OCT) was most significant, while 6.6 % cited prostamide eye drops. Other advances that received votes included premium intraocular lenses, the Femtosecond laser, gene therapy for Leber's congenital amaurosis and Descemet's stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty (DSAEK).

The Academy conducted the poll in December and received 423 responses.

Novartis Makes Bid To Buy All Alcon Shares

ALCON CONTESTS MINORITY SHAREHOLDER PROPOSAL

■ An announcement by pharmaceutical giant Novartis to buy all outstanding shares of Alcon was labeled “fundamentally flawed” by the Independent Director Committee of Alcon. Novartis, which already owns about 25% of Alcon, offered to buy the outstanding shares for $39.3 billion.

The deal would involve Novartis exercising its existing option to buy 52% of Alcon shares from Nestle for $28.1 billion ($180 a share) and acquiring the remaining shares from minority shareholders for $153 a share. The committee has contested the offer to minority shareholders, asking for equal treatment for all shareholders.

Such a difference in share value “is neither befitting a company of Novartis' stature nor equitable to the Alcon shareholders,” said a press release issued by the Alcon committee.

Moving forward, Novartis has indicated it plans to form a new eye-care division by integrating Alcon with Ciba Vision, the contact lens subsidiary of Novartis.

In addition to the acquisitions, Novartis has delved further into eye care through successful partnerships with Genentech (Lucentis) and QLT (Visudyne).

Essilor Announces New Products And Awards At Annual Meeting

NEW LENSES, WEB SITES AND EDUCATIONAL VIDEOS LAUNCHED

■ Essilor of America made several announcements at its recent national sales meeting held in Hollywood, Fla. Among them:

► The company introduced the next generation of the Varilux Physio lens design, Varilux Physio Enhanced lenses. The lenses are designed with W.A.V.E. Technology 2, which provides sharp vision by taking into account variation in pupil size due to age, patient prescription, light conditions and viewing distance. The result, says the company, is that the patient sees improved sharpness in any light, less eyestrain and reduced swim.
► Also launched were the new Crizal Alizé lenses, which will replace the current Crizal Alizé line. The new lenses offer an enhanced topcoat (98% remains after 20,000 cleanings), a proprietary High Surface Density process to resist smudges, double-sided hard coat and a Pad Control System for edging precision.
► The company now offers DEFINITY lenses with DUAL ADD 2.0 technology and Thin&Lite 1.74 material.
► Essilor launched newly enhanced product web sites for Varilux (www.variluxusa.com) and Essilor 360° (www.essilor360.com).
► In addition, the company introduced the Xperio educational video series aimed at showing how eyecare professionals can successfully talk about prescription sunwear to their patients.

Essilor announced the winners of its Independent Distribution Division Advantage Plan Annual Laboratory awards, which went to: RD Cherry (Lab of the Year), VSP (Managed Care Lab of the Year), Superior Optical Lab (Varilux Award of Excellence) RD Cherry (Crizal Award of Excellence), NEA Optical (Essilor Transitions Award of Excellence) and Sunland (Premium Materials Award of Excellence).

In conjunction with the meeting, the Essilor Vision Foundation hosted Kids Vision Fest, which offered games, arts and crafts, entertainment, free vision examinations and new glasses to children whose families cannot afford vision care.

Protect Against Harmful UV Rays

A new public service announcement, launched by The Vision Council, was developed to increase consumer awareness of ultra-violet (UV) protection. Distributed to 5,500 media outlets, the announcement directs consumers to a dedicated page on The Vision Council's website (www.thevisioncouncil.org/consumers/sunglasses) for more information.


O.D. NOTEBOOK
□ CooperVision has named Richard Clompus, O.D., F.A.A.O., vice president, global professional relations within the Global Commercial Strategy team. Dr. Clompus will support clinical studies, education and professional affairs on a worldwide basis. Dr. Clompus recently served as director of The Vision Care Institute, supporting student and doctor education. Prior to that, he held leadership positions within Vistakon and The Spectacle Lens Group of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care.

□ Vistakon announced the introduction of a new 90-pack for its 1•Day Acuvue Moist brand contact lenses. The company also reduced the price of its 1•Day Acuvue Moist 30-pack and is offering a new wearer rebate specifically for 1•Day Acuvue Moist patients.

□ Reichert announced the restructuring of its marketing function, which includes the formation of distinct Product Management functions. The Tonometry/Pachymetry product lines will be managed by David Biggins. David Taylor will manage the advanced diagnostic product lines. Edward Bujanowski will manage the newly established Marketing Communications department. All three will report to Ted Newill, Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

□ The American Optometric Society (AOS) has announced its inaugural meeting and practice management seminar will take place at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, Calif., from March 26 to March 28. According to the AOS, the meeting will focus on creating and maintaining a successful practice in today's challenging healthcare environment. For more information, visit www.optometricsociety.org/inaugural-meeting.html.


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2010