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.

BLOG: Summer safety tips from your optometrist

The spring rain may be bringing the blues to many of our days, but it is a sure sign that summer is just around the corner.

Here in the Northeast, the change of seasons is always dramatic, with gusty winds, sweeping rain and shocking temperature swings. As our thoughts turn to the summer mode, what changes should our offices be considering to usher in the new season?

If you have children or perhaps grandchildren, you may have had the opportunity to attend a visit to the pediatrician. The medical specialty of pediatrics has certainly evolved since my day as a kid when it was all about shots, stiches and casting broken bones. Today’s pediatrician is the primary care provider for children and young adults. Visits are planned, regular and include more wellness and prevention than most other medical specialties. One of the elements that impressed me the most was the emphasis on child safely.

In spite of the recommend schedule of visits to the pediatrician, parents of healthy children often stop those regular visits to the pediatrician once their child hits adolescence. This is particularly true in underserved areas and in the Medicaid population, where social determinants of health become an issue. However, this is also the time in life where refractive errors start to affect vision and schoolwork. With no other chronic medical concerns, the family optometrist often becomes the health care professional that takes over with regular and periodic health care encounters.

With health care reform pushing for alterative resources for primary care, patient safety issues are easy and a logical transition. For most of us, it is pretty low impact to begin with simple health and safety recommendations for our young patients. The beginning of the summer season is a great time to start this, as most of us are already moving the sunglasses to the front of the optical department.

We have long recommended that our patients use sunglasses to protect their eyes from the damaging rays of the sun, especially in the summer months when the sunlight is more direct. It is a simple step to add recommendations to also protect the skin from the same exposure. Sunscreen, tightly woven clothing or any of the new lightweight specialty sun-blocking fabrics should be part of our regular summer advice.

Optometrists have a growing role in the management of concussion and traumatic brain injury because these injuries often result in vision problems. To prevent or decrease these types of injuries, we need to recommend bicycle helmets, seat belts, and car or booster seats. Special car restraints are required in many states until the child weighs more than 80 pounds.

As optometry’s role in primary care grows, so do our duties and responsibilities to better serve our patients. The new California law, which was signed in 2017 and allows certified optometrists to administer vaccines for flu, shingles and pneumonia, was a major step forward and should serve as a bellwether to other state associations.

Adding summer safety recommendations to the optometric routine does not require state legislation or a change in licensing. Here are a few starter tips to add to your summer “doctoring” or care summary and ongoing plan of care:

--Protect your eyes with sunglasses.

--Protect your skin with sun-blocking lotion or protective clothing.

--Protect your brain with a helmet when cycling or in other appropriate sports.

--Wear your seat belts whenever driving or riding in a car.

--Secure your children with car seats or booster seats until they reach 80 lbs.

--Use insect repellent when enjoying the great outdoors.

--Wear eye and ear projection when mowing the lawn or using tools.

You might want to get some office marketing materials that offer these or other safety recommendations. This, along with the specific information that you provide in that face-to-face encounter, will help your patients understand your broader role as a member of their primary health care team.

References:

American Academy of Pediatrics. Health & Safety Tips. Accessed April 23, 2019.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Sun Safety and Protection Tips. Accessed April 23, 2019.