Many of us practice low vision within a private practice. Like anything else, low vision has its challenges and opportunities.  Here are some helpful tips:

Consider a separate low vision phone number and website.

This sets the low vision ‘practice within a practice’ apart. Having a separate phone number also helps your staff ensure that low vision patients do not get thrown into your regular schedule (see more on block scheduling below).  When the low vision line rings, staff will be able to properly appoint the patient.

Furthermore, patients and family members who may be doing a search for low vision specialists are more likely to choose “Smithtown Low Vision Center” over “Main Street Optometry”. Lastly, referral sources will recognize your dedication to the specialty based on your name and website.

Dedicate specific times for low vision appointments.

Most private practices in urban areas are busiest on weekends and late afternoon or evenings. Pick a Tues/Wed/Thurs morning (or any other time period that tends to be a little harder to fill with primary care patients), and dedicate a four hour block for low vision exams.  

We find that our Mondays and Fridays tend to be busy with office visits, which is why I recommended T-W-R. Having the appointments block scheduled allows you and your staff to be in “low vision mode”.  

These patients often take a little longer to get in and out of the exam room, but also knowing that you have 30-60 minutes set aside for the patient allows you to take the best care of the low vision patient and their unique needs.

Use ancillary staff to show magnifiers and electronic devices.

This allows you to do more of the optometric side of low vision care. Establishing best-corrected vision via a trial frame refraction, and determining proper magnification.

Use different history forms than you use for your primary care patients.

Be goal-specific. Ask the patient what his or her goals are, and know that often there is not one device that meets all of the patient’s needs.

If multiple devices are necessary, then prescribe multiple devices, making sure the patient understands the benefits and limitations of each.

Educate your optical staff regarding the special needs of low vision patients.

Closer working distances, ophthalmic tints beyond standard grey and brown and bioptic telescopes are just a few examples of learning opportunities for your opticians and optical staff.  

I make a note on all low vision glasses prescriptions, whether filled in my office or elsewhere, of the expected acuity for distance and near and any low vision aids that will be used with the glasses.  

This helps the optician to have the knowledge to assist the patient appropriately and reduces the likelihood of the patient being unsatisfied (due to incorrect expectations prior to dispensing) with their glasses and/or devices.  

Low vision is an important service to provide in a community.

It also can and should be an important profit center for your practice. Doctors who make money while providing low vision care in a manner that decreases stress for the practice will enjoy this specialty and actively seek out more patients.

If more doctors practiced low vision, more patients would have access to low vision services, which is a benefit to patients and doctors alike.