Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Access Low Vision in Pennsylvania

I am so proud of what we at the POA have achieved this year. The POA has provided leadership development for over 40 members and established a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Additionally, we have developed a new POPAC Proactive Optometry Initiative. After advocacy efforts this year, we've seen the successful passage of the Early Eye Drop legislation. We have even supported Salus University’s Ophthalmic Lasers Procedures for Anterior Segment certification course. You can register here. 

In addition to our established initiatives with the Pennsylvania Diabetic Eye Health Alliance (PDEHA)  and Children’s Vision Care Alliance (CVCA), the POA has now formed a Low Vision Awareness Committee. The overall purpose of the Low Vision Awareness Committee is to promote Low Vision awareness to Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, other health care providers, and the general public.

We are reminding our members that the standard of care for a patient with low vision is to refer to one of the many Optometrists in Pennsylvania who provide Low Vision rehabilitation.

So, what constitutes a referral for Low Vision services? No longer is the trigger for a referral to Low Vision a certain visual acuity, visual field or diagnosis. The standard of care now is to refer any patient who is struggling with at least one activity of daily living due to their vision loss. Examples could be: difficulty reading mail or pill bottles; trouble keeping up in school (at any age); concerns about driving; difficulty performing work-related tasks; difficulty traveling through unfamiliar environments; trouble reading books, magazines, or computers; inability to see favorites hobbies or past-times; difficulty seeing to provide self-care such as shaving; or difficulty seeing to perform housekeeping such as cooking and laundry. 

If you have provided the best optical correction, but your patient is still struggling, please refer to a Low Vision Optometrist. They can tackle the problem, not only by traditional glasses or contact lenses, but also by use of lighting, contrast, prisms, modified working distances, eccentric fixation, various forms of optical and electronic magnification, training with these devices and techniques, and referrals as needed to other supportive professionals. The earlier the Low Vision Optometrist can become involved, the more successful your patients are likely to be.

Of course, at no time should Low Vision care replace proper medical or surgical intervention. But do remember, Low Vision is an essential treatment modality to those with visual impairments. Also, please do not prejudge a patient’s ability to adapt to Low Vision care or pay for the services. Low Vision consultations are generally covered under a patient’s medical insurance. If not, other funding sources are available such as the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. Get to know your local Low Vision Optometrists. They can guide you. Consider the Low Vision Optometrist a part of your team. They do the rehabilitation and you continue to be the patient’s primary eye care Optometrist.

If you are a POA member who provides Low Vision Rehabilitation, please make sure your AOA profile indicates you have a special emphasis in Low Vision Rehabilitation. Also, join the AOA Vision Rehabilitation Advocacy Network by signing up on the AOA website under practice > specialties > Vision Rehabilitation. By identifying yourself as a Low Vision Provider with your professional association, your colleagues and the general public will be able to find you on the AOA and POA “doctor finder” under Low Vision Emphasis. If you are not a Low Vision provider, search on the AOA or POA websites for a Low Vision Optometrist in your area.

I want to thank the POA for all its support. I ask members to stay involved, join PDEHA, join CVCA, and join or refer to POA Low Vision Optometrists. Become a keyperson. Join the Proactive Optometry Initiative. We all know that Optometry is the premier eye care profession in Pennsylvania. Let’s keep it that way. Great things are being planned for 2023, and I look forward to continued success for Optometry in Pennsylvania. 

Tracy Carpenter Sepich, O.D., M.S.

Doctor of Optometry

Masters of Science in Low Vision Rehabilitation

1 comment:

  1. Well written! Thank you for your advocacy for Low Vision! Dr. Wilcox