We Do So Much for Our Patients, But Are We Telling Them Why?

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By April Jasper, OD, FAAO, and Katie Gilbert-Spear, OD, MPH, WO Professional Co-editors and Co-founders, Distinctive Strategies and Leadership

When there’s legislative activity going on focused on a topic—like updating the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act—it might be tempting to do nothing. But it’s shortsighted to say you’ll wait until all is said and done before creating your response. The requests for contact lens verifications are likely to keep coming, and ignoring them can do more harm—to your patients, your practice and even the professional reputation of optometrists.

Most ODs consider these faxed requests that can arrive at any time of day or night to be nuisance. They are, but there are a few strategies for dealing with these requests—and a very important one for heading them off that practitioners can employ.

First, know the rules. And while it might grind at your sense of fair play, follow them. Typically, you have a stated number of business hours to respond to a verification request. Here’s the catch. If your website says that you’re open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., those are eight business hours. If, in fact, you only open every other Saturday, the company requesting your verification isn’t going to know that.

Know your state law, too. In Florida, for example, a contact lens prescription is valid for two years, unless there’s a documented reason for needing to see the patient after one year. In other words, you can’t simply decide that your policy is to see all contact lens patients back in a year. Those kinds of responses actually add fodder to those who argue that optometrists are making it unnecessarily difficult for patients to access their prescriptions.

In addition to reacting to the requests that are made, there are two important preventive steps. The first is to get involved and support those ODs who advocate on your behalf. Optometry is a legislated profession, and some of your colleagues are out there on the front line working to make it a better one.

The second is to make sure that your patients understand your policies aren’t arbitrary; they’re designed to protect patients’ ocular health. Look at how well dentists have educated the public about the preventive benefits of getting a cleaning and checkup every six months.

Consider introducing the idea of an annual exam in the exam room and perhaps even prepare a checklist or single-page tear-off that your well-trained technicians can provide to patients. “There are three reasons that I want to see you again next year, which is also when I’ll update your contact lens prescription. The first is that I want to check your vision, as vision does change. Secondly, there are ocular health conditions that may have no symptoms at all. I want to check for those. Third, there might be new products available that could allow you to see more comfortably or more clearly even than you’re seeing today.”

Do you have an effective policy or form that you use? We will link submissions to this column online. Please email mbijlefeld@jobson.com to share what works in your practice.

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