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Urgent Care

Patients routinely develop ocular problems that require a doctor”™s care during office hours and, more likely, beyond normal office hours. Practices handle these special circumstances differently. Most ODs (74%) in our survey said that they will see patients after hours, usually for contact-lens-related problems, foreign body removal, onset of iritis and for sudden changes in vision. One OD summed up his experience by saying, “œMultitudes of gratifying encounters during after-hours have bonded patients and families to my practice. Preserving vision of many acute angle closure glaucoma victims has been my most memorable service.”  Below, optometrists share their protocol for providing urgent care in their practices:

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“œWe take all call-ins, walk-ins, all patients with pain or fear of loss of vision, with or without insurance or money, even if there is no promise of future payment. Emergency eyecare for all patients is a moral obligation for people who have committed their lives to saving sight.”

“œIf patient is known, meet at the office. If unknown, we recommend going to ER first.”

“œUrgent care is provided 365 days per year.”

“œA triage nurse accepts the call and schedules appropriately; often in slot set aside for urgent care.”
“œStaff is knowledgeable in triaging patients”™ needs over the phone. Any patient symptoms on an urgent list gets put onto the schedule same day.”

“œMy staff has a triage form to determine how fast patient needs to be seen. We try to see all emergencies on the same day unless less urgent such as dry eyes.”

“œIf pain or flashes, they need to be seen the same day regardless of availability. Any other symptoms they are triaged by a technician for when to come in. If after hours, the answering machine forwards the call to the on-call doctor phone number for patient to be seen that day.”

“œI prefer them to see their normal eyecare provider. I”™m uncomfortable providing care without knowing their complete ocular history.”

“œStaff consults doctor with specific questions answered, then determination is made when to bring patient into office.”

“œCase by case but err on side of patient fears.”

“œWe have a triage sheet to guide staff on what needs to be seen immediately, by next day, within a week, or whatever. If it”™s not an emergency we try to schedule the patient in empty slots in the schedule.”

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