|I also agree that
optometry has also been a vision driven profession,
and we should never lose sight of this portion of
our profession. However, my experience has been that
one of the fastest growing parts of my practice is
serving the patientís medical needs. As a result, I
strongly encourage each and every one of you to
implement ďa medical modelĒ in your practice.
Why The Medical Model?
Most of my medical patients are coming in to see me
more than one time per year. Not only does this help
to increase my profitability, but it gives me the
opportunity to build a faster, stronger and more
loyal relationship with these patients versus the
eyeglass patient. For me, this was crucial since I
had started a practice with no patient base.
Another observation that I have noticed is that my
pre-appointed medical patients are more likely to be
compliant with pre-appointed follow-up care versus
those patients pre-appointed for a well vision
examination. These patients come to you, knowing
that youíre providing care for them that they need.
Most of the time, that same type of loyalty is much
harder to achieve with patients seeking you out for
routine vision care.
Incorporating the Medical Model
One of the biggest challenges of incorporating the
medical model into a practice is establishing an
image as more than someone who prescribes just
glasses and contact lenses. In order to integrate
ďthe medical modelĒ it is important to properly
educate patients on the differences of vision and
medical reasons for visits. From my own experience,
patients typically are not very well educated on
their insurance benefits. Having a well-educated
staff to discuss insurance benefits with patients is
crucial to the success of implementing the medical
Patientís Perception of the Medical Model
Most patients are pleasantly surprised to learn that
their optometrist can submit claims medically. Letís
face it; most people love to use their insurance
benefits. When patients learn that they can utilize
both their vision and medical benefits with their
optometrist, theyíre thrilled! Patients perceive
this as a higher level of service, and are very
quick to tell others that their eye doctor can treat
medical conditions and file to their insurance.
Perception of the Medical Model
Practicing optometry to its fullest scope has
allowed me to service my community to the absolute
best of my ability. Patients often comment that Iím
the only eye doctor that theyíve ever visited that
will submit medical procedures to their insurance.
As a result, Iím the first person that they call
when they have a red eye. It makes sense to us that
patients should call us first for treatment of the
eye, but patients donít always see it that way.
Often times, the patients choose what doctor to call
because of their insurance coverage. As a result,
many optometrists leave a lot of opportunity and
revenue on the table for pediatricians, primary care
doctors, and ophthalmologists simply because they
donít accept the patientís insurance.
Practicing the medical model has increased my
revenue, increased patient referrals, and most
importantly, has increased patient satisfaction.
This has been a terrific way for me to differentiate
myself in practice, and Iím certain that it can be a
great opportunity for each of you.
Itís important to code and bill medical visits
appropriately when implementing the medical
model in your practice. Invest in a coding and
billing reference to ensure that youíre coding
and billing correctly Ė donít assume that a
colleague or an employer is doing it. There are
several references available, and Iíve found the
American Optometric Associationís coding and
billing references to be helpful as well as
affordable. Medicare also has a Web site that is
a free reference and is updated continuously. -
Kelly Kerksick, OD