Collaborative Care: A Win-Win

Opening the lines of communication with surgeons maintains patients’ trust— and helps build your practice, too.

By Casey Claypool, OD

Collaborative or integrated care is a win-win situation for optometrists. As family eye doctors, we tend to know our patients best, often having seen them for years—through school, marriage, tragedy, and success. We know their vision requirements for work and hobbies, having fit them in glasses or contacts. And when we refer a patient to a surgeon, we do so with that patient’s trust that he or she will receive the best possible surgical care.

Years ago, cataract surgeons would continue to see patients throughout their postoperative period, a practice that could potentially harm the optometrist-patient relationship. Perhaps, after a time of separation, these patients would go elsewhere for their regular care or lose faith in their optometrist’s ability to manage surgical cases. Fortunately, with current trends, ophthalmologist-optometrist referral patterns have been strengthened for the good of all parties, especially for the optometrist and patient. We are now able to walk patients through their surgical healing, ensuring them of the expected outcomes and thereby continuing to strengthen their trust in our abilities.

Collaborative care allows optometrists to practice at the top of their clinical skills, challenging them to stay up-to-date with the best surgical practices while, of course, maintaining trust in their surgeons’ experience and goals. Additionally, optometrists can bill for their portion of the perioperative care. For example, straightforward, uncomplicated modern cataract surgery and LASIK follow-ups can be a significant boost to our chair time production. For more complex cases, such as retina or glaucoma surgery, collaborative care may not be possible, but the communication channel with the surgeon is still open, ensuring the best care for the patient.

Collaborative care in LASIK and cataract surgeries is an excellent way to build a practice. When patients are referred for permanent surgical procedures that will benefit their vision for the rest of their lives, they gain greater trust in their referring optometrist. The more the optometrist is involved in the referral, the more likely the patient will be to tell others about why they should see their family optometrist.

On the flip side, however, one of the fastest ways for an optometrist to lose a patient is by not referring the patient for a beneficial surgery. For example, some optometrists will continue to change glasses rather than refer a patient for necessary cataract surgery. Eventually, the dissatisfied patient will go elsewhere. After finally having the problem corrected with surgery, the patient will be unlikely to go back to the original optometrist. Therefore, the referral is a win for the optometrist because it takes care of the problem and maintains the trust of the patient.

Casey Claypool, OD
• optometrist, Empire Eye Physicians, Spokane, Wash.
• financial interest: none acknowledged
• 509-928-8040; casey.claypool@empireeye.com