Meeting the Vision Needs of an Aging Population Takes Clinical Integration

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By: Daniel Miller, MD, PhD, Retina Specialist at Cincinnati Eye Institute and Chair of EyeCare Partners’ Medical Executive Board

Vision loss is one of the most common conditions affecting adults, with approximately 12 million people in the U.S. over the age of 40 with vision impairment, including more than 1 million who are blind. The number of people impacted is only expected to grow over the next 10 years as the population continues to age. Identifying people at high risk of vision loss and providing early interventions is key to improving outcomes, but according to research, many people lack basic knowledge about maintaining their eye health and don’t know the early warning signs of potential problems.

To complicate matters, the eye care industry is being challenged by a lack of new ophthalmologists joining the field. The Health Resources and Services Administration estimated that there will be demand for approximately 22,000 ophthalmic surgeons by 2025. However, it is also estimated that the number of available ophthalmologists at this time will fall short of demand by more than 6000 doctors.

With a clear imbalance between the patient population and eye care providers, how do we as eye care professionals keep up with the growing health care demands of our aging population?

Optometrists and Ophthalmologists Working in Unison
One approach, which we are seeing in a growing number of optometry and ophthalmology practices, is a move to a clinically integrated care model.

Under this model, ODs and MDs work collaboratively to diagnose and treat patients earlier. This clinically integrated approach to eye care helps ensure that when diseases or other impairments are diagnosed, they are quickly escalated to the appropriate specialist. The specialist then works in coordination with the patient’s optometrist to ensure they have a seamless experience from beginning to end.

Clinically integrated eye care is the foundation of our work at EyeCare Partners because the model has been shown to improve patient care time and time again. Data from a 2020 quality report by CVP Physicians, a premier network of eye care practices and clinical centers within EyeCare Partners, reported a 98.37% patient success rate, displaying extremely low intraoperative complication rates compared to international benchmarks. The data from this collaborative group of ODs and MDs supports the notion that clinically integrated eye care networks have a positive impact on overall patient outcomes.

With more than 700 optometrists and more than 300 ophthalmologists nationwide, EyeCare Partners has identified 4 key success factors that support our ability to deliver fast, frictionless care to our patients:

  1. Shared Data: The ability for optometrists and ophthalmologists to share data across a common electronic medical record (EMR) platform is key to creating a seamless patient experience. But with dozens of different EMR platforms used throughout the industry, aligning on a common platform can often be a challenge. At EyeCare Partners, we recently introduced E360+, a proprietary medical record system designed to support collaborative work between ODs and MDs and enhance optimal patient experiences across the eye care continuum.
  2. Medical Executive Boards: Having optometrists and ophthalmologists in shared leadership and decision-making roles is a key component of clinically integrated care. At EyeCare Partners we ensure the opinions of our optometrist and ophthalmologist partners are brought together on our Medical Executive Boards. We empower ODs and MDs to work collaboratively to make decisions regarding internal leadership, productivity, ongoing education, efficiency, and research to ensure that our patients receive the highest quality of medical care.
  3. Centralized Infrastructure: To make the referral process as simple as possible for our referral partners, EyeCare Partners has instituted online referral portals which provide full patient transparency, enabling referring physicians to easily track where their patient is in their eye care journey from start to finish. Being HIPAA compliant and with no additional cost to the referring physician, the portals also allow referring physicians to send patient information electronically to the next eye care provider who is scheduled to care for the patient.
  4. Staff Training: Having a team that understands the complexities of a referral is a key factor to making sure patients are treated effectively and efficiently. At EyeCare Partners we have dedicated team members at call centers who handle scheduling referrals as quickly as possible. These experts streamline the process of scheduling the patient’s next referred visit, so ODs and MDs can focus on what they do best – providing top-notch eye care.

As optometrists and ophthalmologists work together to share their growing caseload, clinically integrated eye care will prove to be more and more essential.

Together we have an opportunity to create a partnership that is simpler and more efficient for patients, so they can count on the optimal eye care they deserve. Learn more about our clinically integrated approach and what we’re doing at EyeCare Partners to elevate eye care for everyone.

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About Dr. Daniel Miller

Dr. Miller is a board-certified ophthalmologist and fellowship-trained medical and surgical retina specialist. He completed a combined MD/PHD degree at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He was the first doctoral student at Ohio State to receive a research fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His research on blood vessels, viral pathology, and the immune system led to numerous publications in international scientific journals and textbooks.

Dr. Miller completed his Ophthalmology Residency and a Fellowship in Vitreoretinal Surgery at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the top-rated eye hospital in the country. Following his fellowship, Dr. Miller served on the Bascom Palmer Faculty as an Instructor and Co-Director of Ocular Trauma.

Throughout the course of his ophthalmology career, Dr. Miller has performed considerable research in macular degeneration, diabetes, and vitreoretinal surgery. Dr. Miller has served as an Investigator in 60 national clinical trials and has authored 60 publications in peer reviewed medical journals. Dr. Miller currently serves as Chief Medical Officer for CEI Vision Partners (CVP) a premier network of eye care practices and clinical centers within EyeCare Partners, Vice-Chairman of the Clinical Governance Board for the Cincinnati Eye Institute, member of the Board of Directors for CVP, and Chair of the Ophthalmology Medical Executive Board for EyeCare Partners.