It’s always a great day at the office when you diagnose a condition for the first time or connect the dots from knowledge already gained. But no matter how good we become as primary care docs, there will always be patients who require a referral, such as one to an ophthalmologist for specialty medical or surgical care. However, a subspecialist may not be located nearby, making it difficult for your patients to obtain care and be compliant with follow-up care. Referring your patients for specialty care directly or indirectly may cause the patient to remain with the specialist for general care and could mean losing the entire family to another office.
Early in my career, I came up with the concept of “the best referral is no referral.” Rather than refer patients to another office for specialty care, we arranged for specialists to come to our office to provide care to our patients. So instead of Mrs. Jones being referred elsewhere for a glaucoma, cataract or retinal consult with subspecialists, the subspecialists provided care in our office.
You may need to reach out to many specialists in your community before finding ones who are willing to provide care in your office. Initially, they can provide services for one or two half-days each month. Newer practitioners who are interested in expanding their care in the community may be especially interested in this opportunity. Of course, emergency cases are always referred out immediately for care to the specialist who can best treat a patient’s condition.
The real benefit of this referral service is providing continuity of care in your office that is convenient for your patients. Compliance can be monitored for follow-up visits, and your practice becomes better known for providing primary and secondary eyecare. As more ophthalmologists employ optometrists to provide primary care, this model of optometrists providing ophthalmologists for secondary care may be a great solution for practices who want to expand their services.
Richard Clompus, OD, FAAO | Professional Editor