o.d to o.d.
What You Do Speaks So
Why the public,
patients, insurance companies and even some optometrists are confused about what
it is that we do.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D.,
F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor
the profession of optometry has evolved over the years and expanded in many
directions, some confusion has developed � among the general public, patients,
insurance companies and in fact, some of our fellow optometrists � regarding
what we really do. Are we doctors? We definitely are, but what do we do that
looks "doctorish" to all of those who seem to be confused?
Now, I'm not talking about
differences like the cars that we drive or the way we dress. I'm not even
talking about the way our offices look compared with those of ophthalmologists.
Many optometrists attempt to make it easy for anyone they come in contact with
to recognize them as a doctor by putting "Dr." in front of their name along with
the "O.D." afterwards on their office signage, letterhead and business cards
(thereby providing the ill- or uninformed with two opportunities to recognize
the individual's status). Still, it seems that even this double-barreled
approach is lost on many, if not the majority.
A look at other
Being puzzled by this great
misunderstanding, my thoughts turned to encounters I have had with other
I recently visited a
cardiologist for an EKG consult requested by my general physician. The visit
went as usual. I was taken to an examination room by the nurse, who reviewed my
history. Then a technician connected all of the leads, gathered the data in the
form of an EKG and did the initial evaluation as to whether the data were
accurate. The cardiologist then entered the room, reviewed the findings and,
once I understood my situation, made his recommendations for my future care.
As the result of
trying to find a light switch in a dark room and breaking a toe in the process,
I also paid a recent visit to my friendly orthopedic. Same scenario: the nurse
took me to the examination room, an x-ray technician gathered the data necessary
and reviewed the x-rays to ensure that the information was available to the
orthopedic. Then the orthopedic came into the room, reviewed the x-rays, showed
me the location of the break and explained what needed to be done and what he
A look at many O.D.s
Now I turn to what I know about
most optometrists and how patients are examined. The patient is taken to the
examination room sometimes by a nurse or tech, but often by the optometrist. The
pre-testing is done sometimes by a tech, but often by the optometrist. The data
gathering, such as visual acuities, tonometry, refraction, are most typically
done by the optometrist and then hopefully, the optometrist makes the
recommendations for treatment or care.
So I wonder if perhaps the reason
that patients, the public in general, insurance carriers and in many cases,
other healthcare professionals are confused about whether optometrists are
doctors is a function of what they observe in our offices. Even though an eye
examination includes many "doctor-ish" responsibilities, decisions and
recommendations, the bulk of what they see us do isn't "doctor-ish," but rather
"tech-ish" and that, unfortunately, is more of what patients remember.
"What you do speaks so loudly
that I cannot hear what you say."� Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Optometric Management, Issue: January 2006