Screening Optometry: Five Questions to Ask Before You Schedule Your Routine Eye Appointment

Written May 7th, 2012 after a rushed eye appointment led to an incorrect prescription for my eye glasses, this article is designed to help you get the most out of your next eye exam.

 

Screening Optometry: Five Questions to Ask Before You Schedule Your Routine Eye Appointment

How to Ensure You Receive a Quality Eye Exam

 

Optometry is big business! Every year, the optical industry generates $14 billion (http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=1560). That’s a lot of eye doctor appointments, glasses, contacts, and other accessories! So it should not be a surprise that profit motivates both small providers and large optical chains-everyone wants to make the most money out of consumers.

While perhaps we have been taught that profit is the holy grail of industry, when it comes to health care-which optical services and products are-quality needs to trump quantity. Of our five primary senses, we all depend the most on our sight; errors made in the name of corporate profit can have horrible, sometimes permanent consequences to our lives!

In March, 2012 I discovered just how wrong things can go when I made an appointment with a local optical chain, expecting top quality in the examination room and high quality glasses. I received neither. In the process of getting the problem fixed (requiring four visits to their office), I learned key questions everyone should ask before scheduling an appointment with any eye care provider you have used (in that location) for less than five years.

  1. How long is the typical appointment? This question gives you a baseline for comparison. Typically a properly done eye appointment should take between 15 and 30 minutes-longer with ophthalmologists or if you checking for a specific ocular issue beyond myopia (near-sightedness) or hyperopia (far sightedness). If the answer is less than 15 minutes-GO ELSEWHERE. A proper eye exam needs a full 15 minutes to check for everything and to confirm prescription accuracy.
  2. What is your policy on walk-in eye exams? You want to get as much information as possible here. The stores love walk in business and will take quality-diminishing short cuts to put as many people into the doctor’s chair as possible with as short a wait as possible for the walk-ins. If you do need a walk-in appointment, ASK if the doctor is busy or free before you agree to be seen. Remember: if the doctor is cutting short a pre-arranged appointment to see you, odds are both of you will receive less time with the doctor than you need for an accurate exam.
  3. Do you ever double-book appointments? Any optical store may not be honest with you on this subject, but asking will probably cost you nothing. If you do get a “yes” to it, ask for more information-when and how often?
  4. Are your doctors independent of your dispensary? Independent doctors are paid by you-not the eye wear dispensary. That makes them less sales-focused and more patient-focused. Whenever possible, patronize the independent doctors.
  5. What guarantees do you offer regarding eye wear accuracy? In case there is a mistake, know the procedure and any additional costs to you to fix a problem before you schedule your appointment.
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3 thoughts on “Screening Optometry: Five Questions to Ask Before You Schedule Your Routine Eye Appointment

  1. Thanks for the post (shared this via @optometrytweet) – you do raise some very valid points to consider from the consumers point of view – especially when choosing the place for quality eyecare. I take this from the UK prospective, where I am a qualified optometrist.

    1) The appointments are usually no shorter than 20 minutes (and I’m lucky to work in a practice most days that provides 40 minutes as standard).

    2) Walk-ins can depend on how packed the diary is, in chains usually the diary is pretty full, but in smaller and independents it can have gaps/cancellations. Not to say the chains don’t have this, but there is often more pressure for them to have a fuller diary.

    3) Each store is different in terms of double booking. It depends on how many slots are available and how many optometrists are able to see you. In one store I work in, there is a rolling clinic, which means everyone is seen in turn from arrival. In most places it is one slot per person per optometrist.

    4) This is sort of linked with 5. As highlighted by @oceanoptometry (on Twitter), College of Optometrists guidelines in the UK recommend that you have your spectacles made by the optical practice that prescribed them to you. That doesn’t stop you from taking it away elsewhere, but should you become intolerant to the prescription or have another issue with your new spectacles, by going elsewhere you are making the root of the problem hard to find – as intolerance can come from the fit and choices of lenses, not only the prescription provided.

    I am, at present, not told to sell a set number of spectacles per day. I don’t agree with such targets. Most businesses take a loss per appointment, so spectacle sales are important for survival (in the UK, the standard sight test costs the business approximately £75 to perform…so they do make a loss). I prefer honesty and advising correctly when a change is needed. I do feel comfortable knowing my fee for working there has been made back for the business, but on some days I am completely aware that this is not always possible and would rather deliver high standard care and advice to my patients rather than reach any target.

    5) Mistakes occasionally happen. Prescribing lenses is not an exact science as it incorporates both objective (our measurements) and subjective (your preferences when offered lenses) factors. It also has to take into account eye health, the lenses you are about to be advised on and your current prescription (big changes, regardless of if it fully correcting your vision to the smallest line on the chart, may not be tolerated and as such modifications may need to be made). Additionally, your eyes are a dynamic system and we do try and relax them as much as possible during your eye examination, although sometimes errors do come through.

    Most respectable optical practices take this in to consideration and offer all they can to ensure you are happy with the end product. Usually they may ask you to trial the prescription for a few days, or if they can see if it is a true error, most of the time they sort it out with no charge (unless of course you change your mind on a lens type or frame).

    My final point is that we are much more than selling glasses. Much more. Our main focus is the health of the eye (and brain). As part of any good eye examination, the health check should be top priority. Just this week I found a possible brain tumour as part of a routine eye examination, as well as the standard issues such as cataract and glaucoma. These patients have been referred to the relevant hospital departments and are hopefully doing well!

    Sorry for such a long post. I completely agree that these sorts of questions should be thought about before booking an eye examination, but thought I would shed some informed light from the other side of the optometrist’s door. I am happy to explain anything you ask and I am sorry that you received such poor service when you needed it. I hope everything has been sorted (I would hope so from March 2012!!!). I hope this post helps and thank you for sharing some important view points.

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