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3 tips to improve doctor-driven dispensing as a student


Third-year student Shelby May gives her three tips to improve doctor-driven dispensing skills as a student. She explains how ODs can differentiate themselves from their online competitors.


Shelby MayThe views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.


Lately, I have tried to focus on using doctor-driven dispensing to help refine my patient care. By prescribing for the patient’s specific lifestyle while the patient is in the chair, we help ensure he gets what he needs and not just the lowest common denominator when we send him to optical. As student doctors, we are in the best position to implement this.

Here are three tips to improve your doctor-driven dispensing skills.

1. Use your training to your advantage

One of the factors that seems to hinder doctor-driven dispensing is the training required to make educated recommendations. It is vital to stay up to date on a wide selection of lenses, coatings, and contact lenses to give appropriate advice to patients.

Previously from Ms. May: 5 true pieces of advice first-years hate hearing

Training staff and ODs takes time that must come out of a practice’s already tight schedule. As student doctors, we are among the best product knowledge. Most of us are likely trying a new coating or lens out right now in our current frames.

Those test lenses then become a great prop when we are sitting across from a patient explaining photochromic or blue light blocker lenses. Nothing builds trust in a product like showing a patient you use it yourself.

Student doctors are being trained to take incredibly thorough patient histories to satisfy new billing and coding rules. A good history helps the student doctor better understand what the patient needs. Does the patient spend multiple hours a day looking at a screen? Suggest blue-light blocker lenses.

A myope who cannot keep track of her sunglasses and cannot function without her specs would benefit from her OD prescribing photochromic lenses. Doctor-driven dispensing does not add much time to the exam when we are already asking the necessary questions.


2. Do not restructure your exams

It is far easier to make a habit than to break a habit. This puts student doctors in a fantastic position to implement doctor-driven dispensing.

Many ODs have long settled into a successful exam format. Exams may consist of some variant of check a patient’s vision, health, write his Rx, and send him to the optical. It is easy to see why a change from an already successful, proven, and comfortable method can be daunting.

As a student doctor, there is nothing we do that is quite comfortable yet. I change my grip daily on my 20D lens and still cannot figure out whether to check blood pressure before or after performing chair skills.

Related: Respect patients' trust during eyewear selection

It is a no-brainer to start forming good habits as a student doctor and tack on a few moments for doctor-driven dispensing in every exam until it becomes natural like the rest of our skills.

3. Capitalize on the human element

Third, and most importantly, in these changing times for optometry, it is crucial to create a human element for our profession to continue to thrive.

We are entering an era in which online alternatives to medicine are gaining traction with patients who prefer convenience over quality. When we graduate, I can imagine the situation will only be exacerbated.

Low prices and instant gratification are understandably tempting. It is unreasonable to try to race an online program that does only a fraction of what we do.

While in school, student doctors can choose to be ODs who center around the patient's specific, human needs. By showing the patient that his health and happiness, not just his glasses, are at the core of what we do, we will set ourselves apart as ODs in an instant. That is a service no computer can provide.

Doctor-driven dispensing is on deck

Doctor-driven dispensing is the next step for our profession to evolve. Using it as a student, especially with all the fresh knowledge we have at our disposal, makes good sense.

Read more from Ms. May here

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