It’s all about the eyewear

May 31, 2014

Recently, I had a patient return to my office shortly after his yearly exam. This gentleman has advanced glaucoma, and after my initial diagnosis, he has undergone several surgical procedures by the comanaging ophthalmologist that has stabilized his condition. He was back in the office complaining of distance blur through his new spectacles. His exact words: “Thanks for helping me with my glaucoma, doc, but I can’t see a thing outta these new glasses you gave me.”

Recently, I had a patient return to my office shortly after his yearly exam. This gentleman has advanced glaucoma, and after my initial diagnosis, he has undergone several surgical procedures by the comanaging ophthalmologist that has stabilized his condition. He was back in the office complaining of distance blur through his new spectacles. His exact words: “Thanks for helping me with my glaucoma, doc, but I can’t see a thing outta these new glasses you gave me.”

For years, I concentrated on the disease aspect of my practice(s). After all, it was hammered into our souls in optometry school, and we have all seen what a difference the diagnosis and treatment of ocular disease can make in our patients’ lives. A consequence of my intense focus was that I ignored spectacles almost altogether. Part of that is because I had-and have-an excellent optician who freed me from that worry. Part of it was because I really didn’t want to fool with it, as I found that aspect of my practice tedious and boring. I mean, let’s face it, fitting and dispensing eyewear isn’t very sexy. And treating disease is what makes me a doctor-right?

While fitting spectacles may not seem cool to me, I am quite certain my patients feel differently. Those pieces of plastic sitting on the bridge of their nose are a constant, daily reminder to my patients of just how good a doctor I am. If they can see better out of their eyewear, then great, that’s what they came to me for. If they can’t, you can bet they will be back in the office in short order wanting it fixed. 

My staff also looks at eyewear a bit differently. Spectacle fitting and dispensing are the lifeblood of my practice. It accounts for the majority of the practice income, no matter again how hard I try to increase the medical aspect of the business. Eyewear is what pays the bills (i.e., their salary), and it was foolish of me to give short shrift to that side of my business.

Vision correction is the bedrock of optometry. Now there is any number of outside interests competing for that vision care market, whether it be online spectacle sales, discount commercial chains, or other private practices. We cannot take optical sales for granted. As we look forward to expanding our scope of practice, we might want to take a look over our shoulder to see who is creeping up behind us, waiting and wanting to erode the optical aspect of our business. Focusing on the future of our profession is absolutely correct and necessary, but we cannot lose sight of where we came from and what we do. We can rest assured that someone else will step into the void if that happens.

So, for my part, I’m trying to do better. I spend more time discussing lens and frame options instead of just passing that chore off to the optician. The patients seem to appreciate those discussions as much as they do the talks about their eye disease and their medications. It is why they come to see us, after all, for our expertise on their vision correction, not just their eye disease.ODT