How long has it been since your last eye exam or vision check? Whether things are looking a bit blurry, or if it’s been more than a year since your most recent exam, it’s time to make an appointment. The primary reason people put off eye exams is that they don’t have an established relationship with an eye doctor. Selecting an eye doctor or optometrist can feel challenging. But with a few selection strategies, you can weed through the options and find the right vision care provider for your situation.
Look into qualifications and history
Any search for a vision care provider should start with basic qualifications, experience and history. Take a quick look at your state’s websites, the American Academy of Ophthalmology or the American Optometric Association. This easy step will help ensure that the eye doctor you are considering is board certified and has the appropriate degrees and education. It is also a good idea to check that a doctor has not had any malpractice complaints or disciplinary actions.
Consider services offered
Over time, your vision may change, requiring different types of exams, treatments and corrective lenses. If you are looking to establish a long-term relationship with an optometrist, it is worth looking into the depth of the services offered. Working with an eye doctor that provides everything from LASIK surgery to contact lens fittings ensures that your eye needs are met now and in the future.
If you have young children, you may prefer to look for an eye doctor that has experience working with kids. Another option is to find a practice that includes a pediatric specialist. Putting in the effort to find a doctor or specialist that can serve the whole family will help establish a pattern of good vision care.
Consider appointment availability & scheduling
Squeezing a visit to the optometrist into a busy work or school day can be a nightmare. Rather than trying to juggle your schedule, look for an eye care provider that offers appointments at times that work best for you. Whether you need early morning, evening or weekend availability, finding a vision care provider that offers convenient appointments is a big part of finding the right vision care provider.
It is also worthwhile to consider how easy or difficult it is to book a visit. You should be able to quickly contact your eye care provider and arrange an appointment within the next few days. If the office is difficult to reach, or if you need to wait several weeks for an available time slot, you may need to look for other options.
Understand your insurance & payment options
Cost should never be an obstacle to getting the best vision care. Finding an optometrist that accepts your vision insurance is an essential first step. However, it’s just the beginning of the journey. Before scheduling an appointment, speak with office staff or the billing coordinator for help in understanding what your policy covers and what out-of-pocket charges you can expect. From there, ask about financing options and payment methods before deciding if the eye care provider is the best one for your situation.
Pay attention to referrals and reviews
Top-notch eye doctors are sure to have happy patients singing their praises. As you start searching for an optometrist, ask friends and family members (especially those with the most stylish glasses) for recommendations. It’s also a good idea to ask co-workers who may have the same vision insurance provider. Your primary care physician is also an excellent source of referrals since they are familiar with your health history and can recommend optometrists in the same health network or the same medical complex.
In addition to getting recommendations from people you know, reading online reviews can provide a peek into all the pros and cons of a particular eye doctor. On sites such as Eye Doctor Review or Yelp, you can gain insight into communication style, office wait times and customer service. However, be wary of testimonials and reviews listed on an eye care provider’s own website. Though they may well be accurate, an optometrist’s website is mostly marketing and any reviews found there will likely be hand-selected to paint the desired picture.
Consider your communication style
For a successful experience, you will need to find an eye care provider that suits your individual communication style. Some patients prefer to make appointments and communicate with office staff online, by email or over the phone. Whatever communication strategies work best for you, look for a vision care practice that is happy to accommodate your desire.
The most crucial piece of the communication puzzle is your connection with your eye doctor or optometrist. Unfortunately, this one is difficult to establish until your initial visit. Perhaps you prefer a doctor who allows time for many questions, or maybe you need a quick in-and-out appointment without much chit-chat. Maybe you like doctors who explore many treatment options, use down-to-earth phrases and include you in each step of the decision-making process. Or, you might feel comfortable with medical terminology and prefer an eye doctor that recommends a course of action without much discussion. No matter your preference, there is an eye doctor out there that matches your communication style.
Don’t put off making a decision
As with most decisions, it is possible to get bogged down in research and options. However, you do not want to delay when it comes to your eye health. After some initial consideration, the best way to determine if an eye care provider is a good fit for you is to make an appointment. By investing some time and effort into finding the right optometrist, you can set yourself up for a lifetime of good eye health.