ODs use their acumen to help patients maintain or establish the best quality of vision. They use tools of their trade to establish a diagnosis, then elaborate to patients in order to create a cooperative treatment. How ODs establish that cooperation is critical to how they manage patients.
For eyecare professionals to establish themselves as the primary-care providers of eyes, they have to establish the importance of proactive therapy or, quite simply, maintenance.
The process of maintaining or preserving someone or something, or the state of being maintained.
The irony is that ODs attempt to bring patients back for annual exams with the sole purpose of conducting a comprehensive examination of the eyes. A more granular way of looking (yes, pun intended) at the visit is as a physical for the visual system. I have often opined whether this yearly pilgrimage is necessary for a patient who has no comorbidities that could challenge the status quo.
For example, when ODs see patients who are diabetic, they are keen to provide a thorough visualization of the retina with great detail to the blood vessels accompanying the optic nerve. In addition, patients with a family history of macular degeneration are a cue for ODs to meticulously look at the macula, most likely taking photos or an optical coherence tomography (OCT). Furthermore, they check the intraocular pressure (IOP) on every patient—regardless of the glaucoma status or family history.
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However, when patients do have a history or risk factors, ODs provide the guidance to “prevent” further damage. These patients are encouraged—much like patients with progressive corneal dystrophies—to cooperate in managing the disease state. More specifically, ODs need their cooperation so changes can be noted and intervention can occur before that condition exacerbates to a point of damage.
But what about the patients who don’t fall into that category?
The majority of patients are disease-free, young, or symptomless. Perhaps they are coming in to update their refractions, although they don’t have concerns: The contact lens patient who has not had a change in his prescription for years or the presbyope who is just increasing the power of her near readers.
Should ODs be seeing these patients yearly? The common thread involved in every patient is “vision.”
Related: Educate, don't sell to patients
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