By Elise Brisco, OD, FAAO, of Los Angeles, California
Optometrists are often the entryway into the health care system. Many of our patients rarely, if ever, have physical exams or see an internist, but they see us regularly because they need to see!
Be a true primary care doctor by caring for your patients’ wellbeing by doing a holistic health history and ocular health exam.
I ask my patients about their emotional and physical health, as well as their lifestyle habits. Questions about sleep, stress and exercise reveal their overall wellbeing, which also affects their vision. Based on their responses, I make recommendations to improve their overall wellbeing, including diet, exercise, stress management and nutritional supplements. Patients are amazed to learn that sleep is such an important part of health and that they can survive longer without food than they can without sleep. In fact, studies have shown that minimal brain damage can occur after only one sleepless night. As primary care practitioners, we have a responsibility beyond refraction and dilation. We should educate our patients that vision is part of their overall health because no part of the body exists in isolation from the rest of their mind and body.
Co-managing patients with other types of doctors gives your patients greater depth and breadth of care.
Do you have an extra room or space that is not being used? Sublease it out to a complimentary health care professional whose services would benefit your patients. You will learn and earn more by practicing side by side with another type of doctor or service in your practice. For example, I have a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, Chinese medicine and ophthalmologist in my practice. We also incorporate homeopathy into our practice since I am a Certified Clinical Homeopath. We also have a vision therapy and pediatric vision department and would love to add a professional, such as an educational psychologist, ed therapist or speech therapist to provide complementary services that would benefit our patients.
Your professional “roommates” will also refer patients to you. Patients love this because it is convenient, and sometimes I can introduce them to the referral doctor immediately after their exam with me.
We are developing multidisciplinary protocols for hemianopsia and other visual conditions after brain injury with the doctors in our group. These ideas were born by practicing side by side with doctors in different disciplines.
Help your patients by expanding the services that you offer in your group. Look beyond optometry when adding another doctor to your practice, and treat your patients holistically as their primary care doctor.