o.d. to o.d.

Can’t we all just get along?

o.d. to o.d.

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Instead of battling the other two “Os,” why not work together to provide the best possible care?

By Scot Morris, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Chief Optometric Editor

This month OM focuses on relationships: relationships with our patients, our peers and other professionals. In this context, consider that often patients ask about the relationship of the three “Os”: optician, optometrist and ophthalmologist. My answer has always been that we each do different things well, and we try to work together to provide the best visual solution for patients. I often wonder whether that really is the correct answer.

Before I went to optometry school, I worked as an optician. After graduation, I spent a decade working in ophthalmology practices. And I have been in private practice as an optometrist for almost a decade. Through this time, I have seen the protocol for referral between “Os” get more subjective and the lines of responsibility more clouded. And to complicate things, a competitiveness has developed between the types of eyecare providers.

A closer look at referrals

In spite of this, there is much that the three “Os” have to gain by taking a more integrated approach toward providing the best care possible. So this month, I want to ask you to take a probing look into your referral patterns for your consumers. Do you “refer” eyecare consumers to your opticians (or other opticians) providing the correct prescriptions for their visual care needs? Do you send patients who have an “A” pattern exotropia to a vision therapist for correction? Or do you try to treat these things yourself? As a general rule, I refer care for those things that I am just not as good at because, at the end of the day, my ultimate responsibility is to my patients.

At the end of the day, my ultimate responsibility is to my patients.

Strategies for success

So, instead of fighting about patients (of which there are plenty), let's focus on two strategies that would improve our business and our community. The first is consumer education. Considering that only 48% of people have their vision checked every year, we all have apparently failed to sufficiently educate the public on the need to protect vision. If we reach only 10% more of the general population, we will be flooded with 31 million more people who need our help (which breaks down to about 600 people more a year for each practice). We would be able to catch so many more cases of age-related macular degeneration early that we would save the vision of millions.

Secondly, we should address a common problem: The practices and policies at those managed care vision plans that not only reduce the quality of care, but also raise costs for patients and practices. In this light, our battles are not all that different, and we share a common goal of caring for our patients' eye health.

A grass roots effort

That said, “getting along” is a grass roots effort. Not all our peers and professional associates will jump on board. Next time you have a challenge you can't handle or need to refer because you simply don't know the best treatment, think of how this referral can build a relationship, serve a common goal and aid all of us by promoting just getting along. OM