Insights From Our Editors

Growth Opportunity: Are You Serving Patients Impacted by Low Vision?

Nov. 25, 2015

You have a prime opportunity to help patientsand build your practice in the processby providing low vision services, findings of The Vision Council’s 2015 Low Vision Report suggest.

One out of every 28 Americans age 40 and above has low vision. An upward trend will continueover the next 20 years as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day. Some 20 million Americans have low vision caused by cataracts, according to the report, while 2.07 million have low vision stemming from age-related macular degeneration. Some 7.6 million have low vision caused by diabetic retinopathy, and 3 million have low vision related to glaucoma, all according to the Low Vision Report.

People with subnormal visual acuity who are not classified as blind and could be helped with optical aids are the population discussed in The Vision Council’s 2015 Low Vision Report. This population will grow significantly over the next 20 years as the baby boomers age.

There are five steps you should start taking today to make sure you are attractive to this population of patients.

ASSESS THE NEED

Do a search in your practice management software to determine how many patients aged 40 and above you have in your practice. Calculate how many potential patients with subnormal acuity you have.

If you have 2,000 patients aged 40 and above in your practice, then the math is:

2,000 x 1/28 = 72 patients

Just to be clear, that is 72 patients …and their families. Potentially, we are talking about at least 300 patients when we think about the patients at risk for low vision and their families.

Each patient that stays with you for at least 33 years represents over $10,000 to the practice ($306 x 33 years = $10,098). In raw numbers, this population of low vision patients and their families represents $3 million dollars over 33 years…per fulltime equivalent doctor in your practice.

Potentially, you could lose these patients and their families to other practices–or you could treat these patients and not only keep them but add additional new patients to your practice as your reputation for helping people with subnormal vision gets out. It’s important to make this $3 million decision carefully.

PLAN

Determine what level of low vision services you want to offer in your practice.

There is a continuum of low vision services. You need to decide on your comfort level and the desired level of services that you want to deliver in your practice. The only wrong answer here is to choose to ignore this area of practice. Baby boomers are a very important demographic in the practice. You must have an answer when they develop macular degeneration.

Deciding on what level of low vision services you want to offer does not mean that you have to personally do the services. You can hire someone parttime or fulltime. An equally great idea is to share this person (or persons) between several practices.

BUILD YOUR SKILLS

Get the necessary education and training in order to be able to deliver your desired level of low vision services.

If you hire someone who already has the necessary education and training, the job is done. The harder task is to try and do it yourself. It is achievable, but this requires specific planning.

Click on the articles below to read about incorporating low vision in a practice.

“Open Your Practice to Low Vision,” Review of Optometry

“Making a Life of Low Vision Work,” Women in Optometry

GEAR UP

Get the necessary testing and optical aids in your practice to be able to deliver that level of low vision services.

You don’t need to recreate the wheel. There are companies that already have packages you can purchase that get you to the necessary level of low vision services you’ve decided are appropriate for your practice.

SPREAD THE WORD

Create a marketing program targeting this population of patients.

Capture success stories, then use them to tell others about what you are doing (which, by the way, you should be doing for all aspects of your practice). When using a patient testimonial, be sure to have them sign a HIPAA Marketing Release Form so that you can use your patient’s protected health information in your internal and external marketing.

The bottom line: How are you going to treat those 72 patients per doctor in your practice?

If you make it easy to do business with you, then they–and their families–will stay with you. If you make it difficult to do business with you, then those people are at risk for leaving your practice and going to the practice down the street.

Make your practice the place where patients come for complete care.

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