Medical optometry is a term we hear increasingly more often in the profession.
We had a chance to sit down with some true experts in the profession at Vision Expo East to get their take on what medical optometry is, why it is important, and how you can build a medical optometry practice.
As scope of practice expands, and our skills and abilities as optometrists allow us to manage a wide variety of complex cases, more and more optometry practices are adding medical care to their practice offerings.
What are some obstacles you might face when starting a medical optometry practice?
There are obstacles that must be overcome when starting a medical optometry practice, or building one.
The single biggest obstacle that optometrists face is usually psychological. Many optometrists believe they rarely if ever see medical cases; however, we all see medical every single day. Ocular surface disease is on the rise and is extremely prevalent. If you don’t see it, you aren’t looking for it.
Another obstacle that many practitioners face is believing they cannot treat medical because they are not on the right insurance panel, or cannot bill for it. This does not mean you cannot treat or manage patients that present with medical problems. You can accept cash pay for medical care just as you would for routine vision care.
Confidence is another obstacle many practitioners face when attempting to start a medical practice. In the beginning, you might lack the experience to treat medical conditions with confidence, but this is something that is acquired over time and after successfully managing a few cases. With some practice, you learn how to talk about medical conditions and educate patients. It is no secret, once you’ve done something a few times, you become more confident.
Learn how a residency can help you develop the experience and confidence to practice medical optometry.
Why it is important to practice medical optometry?
With an aging population and a subsequent increase in ocular disease, the demand for medical eyecare is greater than ever before. Even with our ophthalmology colleagues, the supply of eyecare providers available to manage these patients is dwindling. There are many chronic conditions that can be comfortably managed by optometrists that can improve patients lives and help build your practice.
Dry eye is one of these conditions.
So many of our patients have ocular surface disease either from physiological changes, or from the demands our modern work environment places on our eyes in the age of digital device use. The beauty of ocular surface disease is that you do not need advanced equipment to manage these cases like an OCT or fundus camera.
Treating these chronic conditions is a great way to build your practice because by building that aspect of your business, you at the same time build the “vision care” aspect of your business. By focusing on the low hanging fruit of dry eye, that requires very little technology to diagnose and treat, you can use this as a platform to build your practice.
How to build your medical practice
Building your medical optometry practice will take some time. By taking on more cases of increasing complexity, you will slowly gain the confidence to handle more cases and in the process build your medical encounters.
Incorporating your staff in the process will also help build your practice. By educating your staff on common medical conditions you treat, they can then educate your patients on what you can do and what medical conditions you can treat.
As you become more confident in your skills and abilities, you can venture into treatment and management of more than just ocular surface disease. Glaucoma is one of these conditions.
Most optometrists are more than equipped and knowledgeable to manage most early stage glaucoma cases. Even if you do not have all of the technology you need, you can refer patients to other providers for testing and handle the interpretation and report.
Before thinking about incorporating new technology into your practice, you can keep track of the numbers.
On a daily basis, track the number of times where you could have used and OCT for example. Once you have those numbers, extrapolate that over one year, over two years, over three years. You can figure out the financials behind this and understand whether or not you should invest in the equipment, or continue to refer out for special testing.
Why medical optometry?
Not only does offering medical optometry services benefit your patient, but it benefits your practice. By offering medical services, you are adding an additional revenue stream to your practice. This is a great way to grow practice revenue while providing valuable services to your patients. Part of this involves properly billing and coding for medical services.
Check out this guide and webinar on billing medical services.
We all have the knowledge and abilities to treat medical conditions. It all comes down to taking the initiative to get started and finding the confidence to treat and manage these patients.