The Importance of Access

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO January 04, 2016

Access has been a hot topic in optometry throughout my professional career. Patients need access to doctors and doctors need access to provider panels so they can provide care for their patients. High-quality eye care should be an essential element in any preventative health care strategy. I believe that optometry is poised to play an increasingly significant role going forward ... but we must remain vigilant in the area of access.

It seems that health care is always in the news. Quality of care, cost control, and access are always a part of the discussion. Optometry has demonstrated an ability to deliver quality, cost-effective care. We also have an excellent geographic distribution of doctors and I believe our role will continue to expand as we press forward.

My daughter, Megan, a third-year optometry student at Pacific University, just returned from a VOSH trip to Tanzania. She came back with story after story of the tremendous need, the devastating consequences of restricted access, and of the hope which emerged as needs were addressed. Bottom line, patients need our services. What we do makes a big, big difference!

So, how can we work toward improvement in both patient and doctor access? First of all, it is imperative that we commit to education. Both the health care industry and the public at large need to be continuously reminded of the critical importance of regular preventative eye care. We dare not assume that everyone understands the importance of eye care and the unique contributions of optometry. Success in education will result in additional opportunities to serve.

Optometry has clearly had success in gaining access to provider panels. However, we also know that access varies depending on the state or region. There is more work to be done. We must continue to seek access opportunities and support those organizations which afford direct access if we are to maintain our autonomy and independence. Preventative eye care needs to be an integral part of every person's health plan, and optometry should be included on all provider panels.

As I see it, access for both patients and doctors is critically important. The benefits of professional optometric care are potentially life-changing. Our job is to work hard in the area of education and to demonstrate the benefits of high-quality preventative eye health care. Patients need access to their doctors and doctors need access to their patients!

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