Befriend the eye surgeon
The surgeon needs to know if the patient wants the surgery or not. Of course, it’s always up to the surgeon and the patient to decide, but your input will help:
- “I have followed the patient in the past five years for cataract. It’s now at a level that new glasses will not bring any benefits.”
- “Since the point of detecting cataracts four years ago, we’ve had three consultations to follow how it developed. The patient now experiences reduced vision when driving at night and needs to spend more time in making sure small details are seen correctly during daytime, which bothers him/her. The patient is ready for surgery – if you too find that an appropriate solution to enhance his/her vision further.”
If you’re not sure if surgery is the right solution at that time, just be open about it to the surgeon. Simply state in the referral that you’re unsure if cataract surgery is the right choice at that point.
Nothing beats personal contact
To get to know more about cataract surgery, and get to know your local eye surgeon, ask if you can spend a day at the eye clinic to observe pre- and post-examinations and some surgeries. You’ll be able to inform your patients better if you’ve seen it for yourself. The surgeon knows that this will increase their clinical efficiency, as you’ll probably get better in only referring patients that are ready for surgery. They prefer referrals that lead to surgery – and not follow-ups. This goes together with us wanting to deliver refractive care until the time of surgery.
By establishing personal contact with the local eye surgeon, you’ll start a professional relationship to the benefit of all three – including the patient. This ‘bond of trust’ will also make it easier for the surgeon to refer the patient back to you after treatment. And, it benefits the patient as you’re the refractive expert. Let there be no doubt in your communication with the surgeon that you want to care for your patient until they are ready for surgery and want them referred to you afterwards. Most ophthalmologists see the value of shared care, but they might need to know you a bit better and experience that you are able to produce consistently high clinical quality.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your local ophthalmologists could rely on that you, the local optometrist, are ready to take an extended responsibility when it comes to refractive care? I mean not only detecting and correcting refractive needs with products, but also to take part in the pre- and post-operative cataract work? The trust and position you can achieve in co-managing cataract patients are signs of your professionalism. There is also a monetary value in this which you shouldn’t underestimate. If you send good referrals, most likely you’ll later receive these referrals back again. Not only will you get back the patients you have referred for cataract surgery, but possibly also new customers. It’s about becoming famous for professionalism, right!
As optometry still isn’t considered a part of medical eye care, it’s up to you to decide if you want to take that position in your local area or leave it to someone else. To start involving yourself in the local cataract care, along with delivering excellent refractive care, is one way to start earning this position.