Home Newsmakers Optometry Has a Space in the Research Realm

Optometry Has a Space in the Research Realm

Dr. Yu presented a poster session on access to care via managed vision benefits
Dr. Yu

Susy Yu, OD, MBA, FAAO, director of business strategy and operations support at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, would like to encourage more ODs to present research –so she wants to walk the walk wherever she can. At the American Academy of Optometry in New Orleans, Louisiana, she presented a poster Assessing Eye Care Utilization in Children Covered by Obamacare in Southern California. In a retrospective cross-sectional pilot study, which compares the utilization of eye care services in children with and without optical hardware benefits, she wanted to see whether the utilization rate of eye exams and the purchase rate for eyewear in children was related to their coverage. Perhaps not surprisingly, she found that it was.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, provides an essential health benefit for pediatric vision care. The research found that children who were covered by a plan that had optical benefits it were 1.60 times more likely to get an eye exam than those who had no optical benefits. They were also more than four times more likely to purchase eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Dr. Yu at the American Academy of Optometry presenting her poster.


While it seems logical the availability of a plan with optical hardware benefits for children results in a higher likelihood for eye exams and eyewear purchases, it’s important that data exists to support this assumption. Dr. Yu says that evidence-based data, data analysis and research is the language that public policymakers and other stakeholders in health care use. So optometrists should be at the table. “Government regulation and public policy decisions need to be made in the best interest of patient outcomes,” she says – and that’s where the research needs to be in place.

Dr. Yu says that because Kaiser Permanente has such a wealth of data and the statisticians to help her analyze the data more deeply, she encourages her optometry colleagues in the company to take advantage of these resources to develop research questions of their own.

More than 20 years ago, Kentucky became the first state to pass a law requiring an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a child entering public school for the first time. While all the professional organizations around children’s health care and vision care recommend early and routine screening, there are only a handful of states, such as Illinois and Nebraska, that have a law similar to Kentucky’s.  Indeed, 10 states do not have any requirement even for a child’s vision screening, and there is variation among the laws that do exist.


Dr. Yu says that she hopes that the research she presented “advances the conversation. The obvious connection is that if children can see clearly, they have a better chance of doing well in school and in life. But we need research around questions like that, even if they seem obvious. It’s that kind of data that will support the need to hire additional optometrists to perform children’s vision exams, even if there is not necessarily retail revenue that results from these exams,” she says.

Dr. Yu says she is pleased the Kaiser Permanente optometrists are interested in presenting posters and earning their fellowship in the American Academy of Optometry. “I would love to motivate more doctors to think beyond the patient in the chair – who will also be our priority. But there’s professional satisfaction that comes from learning at this level,” she says.

Read other stories about women ODs and research.

OD Flexes Her Research Skills in PhD Program

Opening Doors to Research Opportunities

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