Scott A. Edmonds, OD, FAAO, focuses his blog on the role of the optometrist in health care reform – moving from primary eye care to primary health care. He is the chief medical officer of MARCH Vision Care, the co-director of the Low Vision/Contact Lens Service at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia and a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board. 

Disclosure: Edmonds is a consultant for March Vision.

Recharging your primary health care batteries

There is nothing like a big optometry meeting to re-energize your outlook on the profession. I am just back from Vision Expo West, and attending with a primary health care mindset was most refreshing. For this meeting, I took some of my own advice and scheduled a number of courses related to improving the medical perspective of my practice.

I started with the course, “Eyefoods: A food plan for healthy eyes,” with Laurie Capogna, OD. This was new territory for me, but it was easy to see how a better understanding of nutrition will help me counsel my patients as part of my daily “doctoring” duties. Always quick to point out to my patients that they should be using supplements, I had not considered the importance of recommending specific foods to promote eye health. As I learned about the properties of many of these foods, I also realized that these same foods would lessen the risk of many of the chronic illnesses that are the target of primary health care. The course also prompted me to take a closer look at the work of my fellow blogger, Jeffrey Anshel, OD. The information and insights that he provides dovetail nicely with the primary health care mindset.

I also attended a course titled, “Systemic diseases and the eye,” with Danica Marrelli, OD. This course reviewed the major chronic systemic medical problems, including diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and obesity. These are the specific set of chronic medical problems that are of critical interest to the primary health care optometrist. Of particular interest to me was a subtle problem called “metabolic syndrome.” This disorder is hallmarked by a series of marginal heath markers that each, when considered alone would not be alarming, but when taken as a group are a significant health risk that can manifest in signs and symptoms of ocular diseases such as diabetic retinopathy. I hope to dedicate a future blog to this topic, as the optometrist may be the key provider in identifying and managing this disorder. I was heartened by the large attendance of this course, as it was exactly the type of continuing education that I had recommended in my previous blog, “Manage patients with diabetes as your first step on the road to primary care.”

It is amazing to see the how many of the available courses would be helpful to an optometrist looking to broaden the mission of his or her practice to encompass primary health care. I often struggle to find enough courses in my areas of interest to fill out my ticket, but this time I wanted to attend more courses than time would allow.

As I work to integrate many of these new ideas into my practice, I will be counting down the days to Vision Expo East.