Article Date: 4/1/2010

OCT Can Set You Apart and Increase Business
Tech Connection

OCT Can Set You Apart and Increase Business

Beyond its clinical value for your patients, OCT also opens the door for referrals.

By Jeffry D. Gerson, OD, FAAO, Shawnee, Kan.

You know that optical coherence tomography (OCT) adds to your clinical capabilities. But OCT also can help you build your business. The technology offers some marketing value with patients — you can advertise that you have the most advanced diagnostic technology — but the greater value exists inmarketing your OCT capabilities to other ODs and MDs to garner lucrative referrals.

Why Refer to You?

When we suspect disease or we can't identify the cause of a vision problem, OCT is an excellent tool. If you have the technology and the know-how to use OCT, you can identify these problems:

■ Glaucoma: Doctors may send you glaucoma suspects so that you can evaluate the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL).

■ Retina disease: Retina cases often end up my practice when “some thing's not quite right.” Perhaps the patient's best-corrected vision is 20/30 with no sign of a problem. OCT images can help identify the problem, and OCT's fluorescein angiography-type features help us identify age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and obstructed blood vessels.

■ Macular issues: Glaucoma and retina make up the majority of my referrals, but a macula problem that an exam doesn't detect can cause decreased vision. For example, vitreomacular traction is very easy to see with OCT, as are very subtle macular holes. And for our patients with diabetes, OCT helps us see subtle macular edema, which may also yield referrals from endocrinologists.

■ Neurological disease: Because OCT can be used to measure nerve fibers, doctors are beginning to use it to detect changes related to neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's. Thus, there's potential for future referrals from neurologists and primary care doctors who suspect neurological problems.

Finally, in addition to telling us if a problem is present or not, OCT can quantify a problem. For example, by measuring RNFL thickness over time, OCT helps us make decisions about treatments or follow-up schedules and turns a one-time referral into several visits.

How Do You Get Started?

When you meet other ODs at local meetings and dinners, find out what technologies and services they offer to get ideas about where to find referrals.

The next step is to reach out. I take other ODs to lunch to get to know them and their practices. Once I learn how I may be able to assist them, I let them know they can send their patients to me for testing, or I offer to help them manage their glaucoma and retina patients.

It's key to assure other ODs that I'm not going to “steal” their patients. We always lay out clear expectations. I do exactly the services they want me to do, and they continue to handle all general care. Their patients aren't “mine,” so they don't receive routine exams or vision correction at my practice. As a rule, I also have to be diligent about sending letters to referring doctors after their patients see me.

I believe we should look beyond what reps and journals tell us to do to make the most of our assets. I recommend OCT referrals for anyone who uses the technology. Even if you only handle glaucoma and retina, that's a lot of people! It's an excellent way to build your practice. nOD

Dr. Gerson in private practice at WestGlen Eyecare and Omni Eye Center of Kansas City, Kan. E-mail him at jgerson@hotmail.com.


Optometric Management, Issue: April 2010