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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.