I often hear optometrists grumble that they wouldn’t recommend going to optometry school to their own friends and family. “Private practice is dying,” they say. And, “the new O.D.’s brightest career option is employment in a chain.”
Indeed, there is tremendous change in the way optometry is practiced. The solo O.D. practice is quickly becoming a thing of the past. However, I disagree with the pessimists who maintain that Walmart and Sears are the pie in the sky for every new grad.
Put yourself in your patients’ shoes and consider where you turn for goods and services. Because we know we can rely on one-stop-shopping at Home Depot and Lowes, for example, most of us who live in cities or suburbia rarely frequent the local hardware store, even if there is still one in town.
Similarly, we associate quality and a more progressive approach from doctors who practice under the banner of universities or large medical centers. It’s not a matter of bigger-is-better; it’s simply a modern-day reality that patients feel safer when there is a perceived system of checks and balances. That is why, as an optometrist, your relationship with your comanaging ophthalmologist is becoming increasingly important. But what should that relationship be?
In a recent Review of Optometry report, Derek N. Cunningham, O.D., and Walt Whitley, O.D., M.B.A., describe a system they refer to as “Integrated Eye Care” (see What is Integrated Eye Care at http://www.revoptom.com/content/d/annual_comanagement_report/i/1835/c/33...). Drs. Cunningham and Whitley explain why and how integrated eye care has developed in the United States and what key benefits and limitations this practice model includes.
If you’ve never heard of integrated eye care before, you’re not alone. However, you may be following the model without even knowing it! An integrated eye care practice can take many forms, the authors say. They describe four basic models:
• Optometrists in private practice who actively comanage patients.
• Optometrists who work directly with ophthalmologists in a referral center.
• Optometrists who partner/employ/lease space with ophthalmologists.
• Optometrists who practice in a vertically integrated setting (O.D./M.D./optical).
The authors describe several advantages to integrated eye care delivery. Most importantly, integrated eye care utilizes the strengths of each practitioner, improves efficiency in patient care, and establishes a natural checks-and-balances system. It also enhances profitability. The authors have also profiled an extensive and diverse group of practicing optometrists who practice under an integrated eye care model. Each profiled doctor shares his or her thoughts on the key benefits and limitations of the model in their own setting. I urge you to read this insightful article at http://www.revoptom.com/content/d/annual_comanagement_report/i/1835/c/33...