Excerpted from page 22 of the September 2017 edition of AOA Focus.
Adding a subspecialty can be an excellent business strategy that answers a big need in your community, but it requires thoughtful planning and preparation. If you're taking that introspective, practice-level look at expanding your service offerings, consider these tips from doctors of optometry who have been there already.
Think of the children
Consider a pediatric subspecialty—and while you're at it, become an InfantSEE® provider, says Glen Steele, O.D., AOA InfantSEE and Children's Vision Committee co-chair.
As noted in the AOA's evidence-based clinical guideline, Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination, "Eye and vision disorders can impose a significant burden on patients, parents and the public."
Dr. Steele says: "Early identification with early intervention gives children the ability to progress through the stages of development in a more appropriate manner. So much of development is assessed by observing how the infant and young child use their eyes to learn about the world. If not developing properly, a child may need to continually play 'catch-up' throughout all stages of development."
Parents often assume a school's vision screening will catch every problem, but that's not the case. Effectively communicating the benefits of early detection on development helps parents understand the benefits of pediatric examinations, and becoming an InfantSEE provider helps brand your specialty to parents and caregivers who are looking for the best for their kids.
Eyes on the ball
It sounds like a no-brainer, says Fred Edmunds, O.D., AOA Sports and Performance Vision Committee past chair, but a passion for sports is requisite No. 1 when considering a sports-vision subspecialty. Having established a sports-vision only practice, Dr. Edmunds says doctors can integrate sports vision in their practice now, utilizing the training most received in optometry school.
"The Brock String and Marsden Ball, while basic and low-tech tools, can be incredibly effective in sports-vision training," Dr. Edmunds says. "Developing a sports-vision niche is an iterative process, so don't think you have to have all the answers to start. You're going to get better the more you practice and your patients' outcomes will improve as you tweak and tailor your training protocols to meet specific needs."
Join the AOA's Sports & Performance Vision advocacy network.
Become the great communicator
Regardless of what subspecialty your practice decides upon, make sure you're the "go-to person" in that area of expertise in terms of communication, says Jason Clopton, O.D., AOA Vision Rehabilitation Committee past chair.
"With modern EHR, we should be able to send a letter—or better, an email—to every provider involved with a patient."
Diabetes? Send dilated exam letters to their primary care provider, endocrinologist, retina specialist and anyone else who provides care.
Pediatrics? Send a binocular vision exam letter to their pediatrician or other specialists involved in their care.
Neuro-visual rehabilitation? Send a functional visual abilities letter to the primary care provider, physiatrist, occupational therapist, physical therapist or neurologist.
September marks Paraoptometric Appreciation Month, the only formal observance dedicated to honor optometric practice staff. Three ways for doctors to honor their staff and for paraoptometrics to advance their careers.