I am writing this letter in response to the information you shared on Thursday, Oct 23rd regarding eyecare recommendations. I understand you were attempting to help the public keep the cost of their eyecare needs at a minimum. However, I feel you depicted an unbalanced assessment of the situation by failing to show what private practice can do for their patients. I also believe you are misleading people to believe they can make the proper decision for their eyewear needs without the hands-on care an independent optometrist provides.
Your story focused on the cost of an examination at private practice compared to Costco. While an optometrist working at Costco is equally qualified to deliver a thorough exam, the scope of instrumentation at a Costco location versus many private practices will vary significantly. The private practice typically invests more in its clinic than a chain. For example, the private practice will have a retinal imaging device such as a camera or Optomap. This instrument allows the doctor to better document and track changes for the patients’ eye health.
The private practice will also develop long-term relationships with their patients as they may have extenuating health issues. Are you aware that an optometrist can diagnose and monitor patients with diabetes, glaucoma, retinal detachment, macular degeneration, and MS, as well as improve a child’s ability to learn in school through vision therapy? These issues went unmentioned in your story. An independent optometrist develops lasting relationships with his/her patients and is able to better manage their complete health care needs.
To recommend to the general public they should purchase their eyeglasses online is also irresponsible. Many patients have specific eye issues that must be addressed by a trained optician. For example, a patient may have vision in only one eye. When this is the case he must order glasses with a safety lenses to protect his one healthy eye. Failure to do so puts the patient at risk. If he experienced some trauma to the healthy eye he could also possibly go blind—something of which most people are unaware. There are many serious yet highly treatable scenarios such as this.
A patient ordering eyewear online does not have a qualified optician verifying that the prescription in the lenses are made to the doctor’s specifications. Any business responsible for making a product will have a margin of error. The private practices will verify the prescription is made properly before they dispense the product to their patient. Neither the internet nor the postal worker will do this for you before you receive the eyewear.
We know recalls occur with automobiles, but eyewear is made for one person, to one person’s specifications. The eyewear must be made correctly and verified, or it may cause the patient to have severe headaches, eye strain, and/or eye muscle strain. Where are the labs that the online retailers contract their work from? In addition, for those struggling financially, the majority of private practices do offer “value” lines to ensure that patients on a budget still receive the product and care they need.
By recommending patients go to the internet to order their eyewear, not only are you endangering the patient, but also the local economy. David Muir and ABC dedicate a special edition to “Made in America.” Would Muir approve of his colleagues recommending Americans buy through an avenue not supported by American workers? There are numerous optometrists, opticians, and labs operated in the United States. There are thousands of people employed in the US for whom this is a career. A reputable news outlet recommending that people purchase their eyewear online is extremely troubling. Eyewear must be fitted properly by correctly measuring for optimal comfort and vision, a service online retailers are not capable of providing.
In summary, the private optometric practices will provide a more thorough eye exam and make better individual recommendations, tailored to each patient. They will make certain patients order the right lenses for their lifestyle and eye health needs. They will ensure the order is made correctly according to the doctor’s specifications.
When people spend money locally, the ROI in the community is far better for everyone. The private practices work very hard to deliver the service and product others are trying to duplicate. It would only be fair for you to deliver more information as to the service, product, and relationships that independent optometrists work hard to deliver as opposed to an one-sided narrative. There is always more to the story.
Williams Group Senior Consultant