CHICAGO — Optometrists and ophthalmologists put aside their political differences for a few hours here at the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery meeting to discuss becoming more efficient and delivering better patient care through an integrated office setting.
Growing patient demand for health care and a thinning pool of eye care practitioners is going to make such an integrated delivery model necessary, Richard L. Lindstrom, MD, said at the symposium. Dr. Lindstrom is the outgoing ASCRS president and a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board.
According to symposium moderator Stephen S. Lane, MD, “What we are really going to be dealing with here is patient care. How are we going to take care of our patients in the years to come with a decreasing number of ophthalmologists and an increasing number of patients? To do that effectively and efficiently, many of us have adopted integration in our practices.”
In 2004, the American Academy of Ophthalmology banned optometrists from attending its annual meeting’s educational sessions. ASCRS followed suit and restricted registration to only those ODs who were “directly employed by ophthalmologists or by ophthalmic industry entities.”
However, at this special ASCRS symposium, both ophthalmologists and optometrists from small and large practices as well as academic settings spoke about their reasons for integrating and their thoughts on why other practices should consider following the model.
| | Integrated system:
Jay Schwartz, DO, (left) and Marc R. Bloomenstein, OD, work together at Schwartz Laser Eye Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Image: Passut J
“We’re all being stressed out a lot by external forces,” Dr. Lindstrom said. “There’s a positive side to this story as well – there’s a lot of money being spent on health care in the United States.”
Dr. Lindstrom said that an aging population has led to a huge influx of patients with an increase in demand for high quality eye care.
With about 36,000 optometrists and 18,000 practicing ophthalmologists, there may be an overlap in services, he said. “There are some things we do that can be done as well by our optometry colleagues,” Dr. Lindstrom said. “It turns out that we can work well side by side. We’re going to have to learn to be efficient to meet these patient demands.”
Dr. Lindstrom introduced his Ophthalmologist-led Integrated Eyecare Delivery Model, which he said works well in many practice settings. The efficiencies that are created from the partnership will lead to better compensation, communication and respect, he said.
Robert H. Osher, MD, runs a large integrated practice in Cincinnati. He said he integrated his practice originally so that he could devote more time to teaching and patient care. The results have been satisfying in many ways, he said.
When he is out of the office, he said he feels comfortable leaving it in his colleagues’ care. “I have total, complete peace of mind ... and I love that feeling,” he said. “Working together has been the key to our success.”
Paul M. Karpecki, OD, also a PCON Editorial Board member, said belonging to that same integrated practice has allowed him to concentrate his efforts on ocular surface disease. “It’s much more specialized [in an integrated system],” he said. “The more you do of anything, the better you become.”
Marc R. Bloomenstein, OD, another PCON Editorial Board member, and others on the panel agreed that integrating allows them to be better doctors to their patients. “The bottom line is that the patients are the ones who benefit the most,” Dr. Bloomenstein said.
A note from the editors:
To facilitate bringing news to readers rapidly, for Primary Care Optometry News meeting wrap-up articles, PCON departs from its editorial policy and typically does not send these items out for source review.