Reap the Rewards of
Children's Vision Screening
Getting involved in screening pays you back in more ways than one.
BY RENÉ LUTHE, Senior Associate Editor
Participating in free children's vision screenings is not only a way to do a good deed, helping to ensure that children succeed in school, but it can benefit your practice too. Under some programs, whole families will come into your office with the child; others get your name out into communities. Here's how some of the programs work and why you may want to consider participating.
Higher yield, less risk
Vision screenings, of course, have become a sensitive issue because of liability potential: No matter how carefully an organization may stress that a screening is in no way a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam, many people will think of it as such and not bother to undergo a more thorough evaluation.
To get around the problems inherent in screening and yet identify vision problems in children before they begin to impair their performance in school, some organizations have created programs that provide comprehensive eye examinations to low-income families. And participation doesn't require spending a whole day away from your practice.
Here's the solution
The American Optometric Association
(AOA), Vision Service Plan (VSP) and the Kansas Optometric Association (KOA) have all designed programs that bring young patients into optometric offices for free visual assessments or comprehensive eye exams.
InfantSEE, sponsored by the
AOA, works with local medical doctors and pediatricians to make vision assessments part of the wellness routine that parents schedule for their babies. Following the AOA Clinical Practice Guidelines for Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination, InfantSee recommends that infants receive their first comprehensive eye examination before 12 months of age (in fact, the AOA says that many eyecare practitioners involved in providing infant primary care services suggest that the best age to assess an infant is between six and nine months.) The program is billed by the AOA as "no cost, no billing," to demonstrate optometry's belief that InfantSee is a true public health program.
Similarly, the Eye Care Council's See to Learn aims at educating parents and teachers about the signs of vision problems in children. It seeks to ensure that kindergarten-age children entering school can see to learn, and to this end provides a free vision assessment for three-year-old children by a participating Eye Care Council doctor to spot problems such as amblyopia and strabismus that need early treatment to prevent vision loss. The program then urges a comprehensive eye exam by an eyecare practitioner before or during the child's first year of school. The program is not available in all states.
VSP's Sight for Students partners with organizations such as school nurses, the Red Cross, Prevent Blindness, etc., to bring vision care to the children of the working poor. A school nurse or one of the other types of partners provides a child who appears to have vision problems with a claim form; the child's family can present the form to any of the 21,000 VSP doctor for a free exam and eyeglasses, low vision therapy or other treatment required.
It's all good
Most eyecare practitioners who participate in VSP's program, says VSP Chairman of the Board Bruce
Mebine, O.D., do so out of a desire to help others. "It allows them to give back to their own communities," he explained. But there are other benefits as well. Jay
Petersma, O.D., says that his work equipping and guiding local school nurses for vision screenings has made them aware of him as a doctor in the community and has generated a lot of referrals. Programs such as
InfantSee, he points out, bring whole families to your practice, where you can introduce them to the quality of care you provide.
Optometric Management, Issue: January 2005