Low vision care offers rewards for patients and practitioners

November 1, 2011

Low vision care is a much needed service that can be personally gratifying for optometrists as well as a financially rewarding opportunity.

Salt Lake City-Low vision care is a much needed service that can be personally gratifying for optometrists as well as a financially rewarding opportunity, said Thomas I. Porter, OD, at the American Optometric Association's annual meeting.

"Many low vision patients have been to multiple doctors who have told them there is nothing that can be done to improve their ability to function. As a low vision provider, optometrists can supply the answers, and in contrast to existing belief, they can do so in a manner that makes economic sense," continued Dr. Porter, who also is adjunct clinical professor of ophthalmology, University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Dr. Porter outlined some fundamentals and basic clinical strategies for making low vision care a revenue-generating practice addition. Prequalifying and triaging every patient is the most important step in assuring the financial success of providing low vision care, he stressed. When patients first phone for an appointment, they should immediately be told about all the elements of low vision care, including its costs and who pays for what.

"Learn about insurance coverage, including reimbursement levels for evaluation and low vision aids, and when patients call in, make sure they know about their financial responsibility upfront because there is a lot of misunderstanding about Medicare and private insurance coverage for low vision care. Then, patients can make an informed decision about whether they want to proceed with a visit," he said.

To increase the efficiency of the optometrist's portion of the initial visit, patients who decide to schedule an appointment should be told to write down the challenges they face because of their low vision, as well as their visual goals. In addition, they should be instructed to bring in any aids they already have, even if they are not finding them helpful.

The information provided should be conveyed through a prepared script to make sure nothing is omitted. Then, to increase the likelihood that the patient will come in with the necessary materials, all of this information should be repeated in a follow-up letter and also during a reminder phone call made to confirm the upcoming appointment. Encouraging patients to ask questions prior to their visit can also help to reduce the visit time in the office, he added.