Dry eye and optometry go together, both Hardeep Kataria, OD, FAAO, of Oxnard, California, and Mahnia Madan, BSc, OD, FAAO, of Vancouver, British Columbia, agree. “It’s completely in the wheelhouse of any OD regardless of residency training,” Dr. Kataria says. “If they have the passion, optometrists can own this. When we provide more services, our scope expands and we can do more and add value to the whole health care system and our community.” (Read more from Dr. Madan on scope expansion.)
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
A full-service dry eye treatment center where patients are diagnosed and treated with an array of services is not for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be. In the least, they say that ODs should be identifying that there is a problem and have a trusted colleague where they can refer for advanced treatment.
If you find yourself truly connected to this cause, there are still different tiers of integration to consider based on the time and finances available to dedicate to treatment and technology as well as the staff and team that will help implement the program.
IS IT LUCRATIVE?
Dry eye services are a huge practice builder, both in terms of revenue and patient satisfaction, says Dr. Madan. Not only is it lucrative, but “treating dry eye is truly helping someone and improving the quality of their life, not just treating a disease. As we learn more, we know how much dry eye impacts personal growth and satisfaction, as well.” It’s not uncommon to see patients who have been to 3-4 doctors and still not treated for dry eye.
In addition to offering new services that are often paid for by patients out of pocket, dry eye treatment can also lead to other revenue boosters, such as recapturing contact lens dropouts who had been uncomfortable wearing contact lenses while suffering from dry eye.
HOW DO YOU GET YOUR EMPLOYER ON BOARD?
Even if you are not a practice owner, you can still make moves to integrate this type of care in the practice where you work. Dr. Kataria and Dr. Madan both did just that. “It takes time, but you can carve out space and time to make it work,” Dr. Kataria says. (Read more about her experience doing just this.)
Dr. Kataria and Dr. Madan had very different experiences in introducing the idea of dry eye clinic to their employers. “When I was presenting this idea to my employer, it was perceived as a significant risk for us,” Dr. Kataria recalls. The thought of training the staff to use instrumentation and interpret testing, while interrupting their other work, felt time-consuming. Then there was the initial investment and the change in my schedule—from seeing 30-40 patients per day to asking for 30-minute appointments. Dr. Kataria researched what competitors were charging, and it took 10 conversations and days to agree on the cost of procedures. “There was a lot of skepticism. From a revenue perspective you need a long vision. Although there is an initial investment in offering in-office treatment, it will inevitably bring in more revenue.”
Dr. Madan, on the other hand, said that her experience was different. The team was on the same page and felt it was a low-risk, high-demand service for patients who were already looking for specialized care beyond hot compresses and lubrication. Decisions were made quickly. And while the staff training took some time, the appeal was in helping these patients and providing services to create a unique niche.