From Oceans to Eyes: Seeing the Big Picture of Our Patients Health

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When I was in my fourth-year externship, one of my advisors gave me a valuable piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten: whatever you do, make sure your patients walk out with a positive experience. That advice really resonated when I opened my own practice. I realized that patients who had a positive experience because of their involvement in their care during their visit were more likely to come back and to follow my recommendations than those who did not. As Doctors of Optometry, we have a unique opportunity to educate patients not only about their vision, but about the role vision care plays in their overall health. In my practice, we have found this to be especially true with the early detection of diabetes.

Here in Hawaii, we customarily enjoy rich foods as part of our culture. Because of that, I see a lot of diabetes and prediabetes in our area. Staying educated on these topics is critical, so I can pass along that knowledge to my patients and provide the highest quality of care.

Premier Academy360, VSP Global’s education program, offers my entire practice up-to-date training on topics such as diabetes so we can provide specialized care for our patients. A few months ago, I attended the “Diabetes in 2020 and Beyond” webinar hosted by Dr. Jeffry Gerson, OD, FAAO, and Dr. A. Paul Chous, MA, OD, FAAO, and it was so valuable and relevant for my patients with diabetes that I was able to apply the information the very next day.

To help support the role of ODs as part of a patient’s comprehensive healthcare team, Premier Academy360 recently partnered with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) on diabetes-focused education with the opportunity to earn an ADA Badge for practices to display on VSP’s Find a Doctor Directory. When looking for a doctor, patients will see the badge and know what additional value the practice brings. This level of support is why my practice participates in the Premier Program, and why I've been a part of the VSP network since I began practicing back in 1987. VSP is always looking to provide resources to support us as we deliver the best care to our patients.

VSP offers an annual covered-in-full retinal screening for patients with diabetes, who do not have diabetic eye disease, under the VSP Primary EyeCare Plan to support patient care for chronic systemic conditions. By offering retinal image screening in my practice, I’m able to show patients the importance of early detection of diabetes and other health conditions and ensure they are involved when reviewing their results, so they understand the process.

We have a lot of boating in Hawai’i, so when explaining the value of this technology to my patients, I tell them: picture a glass-bottom boat where you’re able to see through the boat directly to the ocean floor. A retinal image is like a glass bottom boat—you're not only able to see what’s going on inside of your eye, but your body, too.

In the words of my mentor years ago, patients who had a good experience will come back and are more likely to refer us to their family and friends. Involving my patients in their care and taking the time to educate them has enabled me to make a greater impact on their overall health. As I see it, the right discussion can make a huge difference in patients’ lives.

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