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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ryan Corte

The Biggest Challenges Optometrists Face | 8 Issues in Optometry + Strategies To Overcome Them

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

So what are some of the biggest challenges optometrists face?

In this video, I share 8 current issues in optometry and strategies to overcome them.

Optometry is a wonderful profession but it’s not immune to challenges. As an advocate of the profession, I want to be transparent about some of the issues optometry faces.

Below are the 8 biggest challenges optometrists face.

1) Rising optometry school tuition costs

The cost of optometry school tuition keeps going up. Honestly, optometry is not alone in this as the cost of higher education (including graduate and medical programs) is increasing.

How to overcome this

If you want to become an optometrist, I recommend going to a public, in-state school. If you don't live in a state that has a public optometry school, consider relocating to a state that does and wait to apply to optometry school until you gain residency. This will save you a lot of money!

Also, I highly recommend that you apply for scholarships and live like a student during optometry school (i.e. financially savvy).

2) Declining insurance reimbursements

Unfortunately, vision care reimbursements are low and haven't gone up for years.

Managed care is very challenging. Navigating insurance claims and denials are a pain point for any healthcare provider, optometrists included.

How to overcome this

I recommend specializing in one of the many different sub-specialties within optometry. There are a lot of different ways to specialize and create a different source of revenue outside of primary eye care.

If the patient's chief complaint is medical, and you have to provide medical eye care services to best serve them, bill medical for those services.

Also, if you own your own practice, look into building a high-end optical to offset low reimbursements.

3) Scope of practice

Optometry is a legislative profession. Since we aren't MDs or DOs, every advancement within our scope of practice needs to be done legislatively. Unfortunately, our scope of practice can be restricted with a stroke of a pen.

How to overcome this

I recommend that you never give your services away for free and make sure that you're practicing full-scope optometry.

Educate your patients and those in your community about the value optometrists provide to the healthcare system.

Of course, make sure that you are supporting legislative optometry, including the AOA and state affiliates.

4) Tough patients

You never know who will walk into your office. Unfortunately, people can be good, bad, or ugly. One of the biggest challenges of serving the general public is you never know what's going on in their world.

For example, maybe they're having significant financial struggles or they just got in a car accident or they lost a family member. You just don't know where people are physically, mentally, or emotionally.

When patients are difficult to serve, it can be exhausting for your and your staff.

How to overcome this

I strongly recommend controlling what you can throughout the entire exam process. If a patient is being a jerk to you or your staff, be extra kind and kill them with kindness.

If a patient's behavior is unruly or disruptive to the practice, professionally let them know that they're no longer able to seek care at your facility.

5) Retail confusion

Optometry is tied to a huge retail component in the sale of glasses and contact lenses. The overwhelming majority of patients that come to see you do so to have their glasses or contact lens prescription updated.

Consumer marketing around glasses and contacts is often confusing and is pushed virtually everywhere (i.e. social media, online, billboards, television, etc.).

A lot of people don't understand that not all glasses are created equal or that not all contact lens brands and materials are the same. Even worse, some practices advertise eye care services are "free with the purchase of glasses."

How to overcome this

I strongly recommend that you never give your eye care services away for free and stand behind the quality of the products and services that you provide.

6) Public perception of optometry

Since optometrists are not MDs or DOs, you will have people that look you in the eyes and say "you're not a real doctor."

Taking that a step further, there are a number of online "vision exams" available that customers think that they're getting a comprehensive eye exam.

The perception and understanding of optometry are all over the place.

How to overcome this

Educate your patients, friends, those in your community, and legislators on the benefits of the services optometrists provide.

Support legislative optometry, never give your services away for free, and always practice full-scope optometry.

7) Increasing competition

Today's optometrist has a lot of competition.

There are private and corporate practices all over the country. Venture capital groups are buying up some of the biggest private practices and, of course, there is increasing competition online.

All of this competition is not going away.

How to overcome this

I strongly recommend today's optometrist specializes in one of the many sub-specialties within the profession.

Get really good at your niche and provide high-quality eye care products and services.

Also, make sure that you're billing medical when patients present with a medical chief complaint supported by a medical diagnosis and treatment plan.

8) Optometry staffing issues

Hiring the right people for your eye care team has always been a challenge. Since the pandemic, it's been downright brutally.

There are fewer qualified people in the workplace and they're costing more money to retain.

How to overcome this

I recommend that you take care of the staff that is committed, loyal, and dedicated to the practice.

Put together a strong training system and beef up employee engagement. And, of course, refining your hiring process after each and every hire.

Final thoughts

Every profession and career path has its challenges. Optometry is not excluded. It's how you respond to adversity that has the biggest impact on your professional journey.

What questions do you have about optometry challenges? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for my next video where we can reflect and grow stronger together.

If you liked this YouTube video, subscribe to my channel for more personal development and thought-provoking videos!

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