Many eye doctors feel that it more important today than ever before to integrate multiple services into one-stop eye care centres. Most patients visit an optometrist for their routine eye examinations. If specialised care is needed, then the optometrist must usually refer the patient to an ophthalmologist. In many cases, depending upon the ophthalmologist’s, findings, patients are referred yet again to a third eye care specialist for a retinal exam or for laser surgery.
Not only are multiple referrals inconvenient for the patient, but they can also be detrimental to effective and timely treatment. In rural areas, patients must often travel long distances to reach an eye care specialist of any type. Being forced to schedule additional appointments on different dates involves additional travel and expense.
Many doctors are successfully circumventing these impediments to service by partnering with multiple practices in one joint location. This is much more convenient for patients and dramatically improves the likelihood that patients will heed the initial attending physician’s referral recommendation.
Integrating practices allows physicians to focus on a single area of expertise. Rural optometrists do not have to concern themselves with keeping current on developments in retinal examination, and ophthalmologists do not have to maintain costly eye exam equipment to prescribe corrective lenses. Surgeons are able to concentrate only on surgical procedures and find that association with integrated optometric and ophthalmetric practices provides steady patient referrals and improved eye care for patients.
Experts believe that it is important for physicians to begin preparing for increased patient loads. Within the next five years, the Baby Boomer generation will reach the age of 71. That is the prime age group for cataract treatment. In the same time period, the Gen Y demographic will reach a critical age for refractive laser surgeries. The ballooning of these two populations is expected to place a huge strain on available eye care services, but the increased demand can be effectively managed by integrating service providers at a single treatment centre.
As the patient population swells, optometrists would essentially be gatekeepers for ophthalmological services. Specialised examinations would become more efficiently managed. Patients who previously scheduled preventative exams with both practices would be screened away during routine eye exams. Conversely, patients who required specialised follow-up would be streamlined into an ophthalmological exam.
Integration of services offers huge efficiency of scale benefits for all service providers involved. It will increase availability of services for patients, ensure that physicians are able to optimise examination windows, and provide for better eye care to rural populations.
Les writes about laser eye surgery for Personal Eyes where you can find out more about eye procedures to suit your lifestyle.