If you have been recently diagnosed with a visual impairment (or you’re navigating the diagnosis of a loved one,) finding the best medical provider can feel like a daunting task. Here are a few tips to ensure that you receive the best care possible.
1. To ensure that you are seeking out the right eye care provider, gain an understanding of the various types of eye care professionals
For example, an optometrist will have the initials “O.D.” (Doctor of Optometry) after their name; optometrists specialize in basic eye functions and have been specially trained to detect visual disorders. They can prescribe corrective lenses and diagnose eye disease. An opthamologist will have the initials “M.D.” (medical doctor) or “D.O.” (Doctor of Osteopathy”) after their name. Opthamologists are trained to perform all of the same functions as optometrists, but they are additionally trained to perform eye surgery and often specialize in treating specific ocular disorders.
2. Call your health insurance provider and request a list of physicians in your network
Your health insurance provider will be able to provide a detailed list of your options.
3. Do your research
Don’t assume just because a physician is wearing a white coat that he or she has the expertise to treat your condition. A physician who “specializes” in thirty different conditions may not have the specific expertise that you require, especially for an uncommon diagnosis. Research your options and read reviews, whenever possible.
4. Invite your primary care provider to be part of the conversation
Your primary care physician may have a specialist in mind from within their network, or they may have valuable suggestions about how you can find the best specialist for your condition.
5. Call the ophthalmology department at your local hospital to ask for suggestions, particularly if you have an uncommon condition
If your local hospital does not have a specialist on staff to meet your needs, they may have a suggestion or referral for where you could go instead.
6. Explore the potential of telehealth
It may feel counterintuitive to seek eye care from a specialist who is communicating with you virtually; however, if you live in a rural area or are unable to travel to a highly qualified specialist for your condition, this option is worth exploring. Technology is constantly emerging, and connecting with a specialist virtually may be the optimal way to supplement the care of a local physician who doesn’t quite have that expertise. A virtual specialist may still be able to provide a high level of care.
7. Treat your initial appointment with a new healthcare provider as an interview
Ask questions and evaluate their knowledge and helpfulness. Do you feel comfortable and at ease? If not, move on to the next provider. Just because a physician specializes in your condition doesn’t mean they are necessarily the right fit for your unique needs.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion
If you’re feeling unsure about a diagnosis or your treatment options, feel free to visit a different physician for a second opinion. Visual impairments can be complex, and you have every right to ensure that you are receiving the highest level of care.