Eye Health Care Getting Clearer and Clearer

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Optometry services provided at retail clinics are on the rise, thanks to the convenience, affordability, and quality of care provided.

In-store walk-in clinics are changingthe way that patients receive healthcare. Convenient care clinics, basedin retail stores with adjacent pharmacyservices, have flourished recently dueto the demand for affordable, accessiblehealth care. These clinics benefit bothpatients and the health care system byproviding accessibility for patients andlessening the burden on physicians andemergency departments; affordability (anational study reports that retail-basedclinics are 30%-80% less expensive thanother providers); quality care from credentialedhealth care providers; and continuityof care (manyclinics will forward electronicor paper recordsof the patient's visit tohis/her primary careprovider if one has beenestablished).

In addition to providingcare related to commonailments, healthscreenings, vaccinations, and preventivecare, these clinics offer valuable optometryservices. Data from the NationalAmbulatory Medical Care Survey andthe National Hospital AmbulatoryMedical Care Survey found that 12.7%of all patients who visited a retail clinic(158,750 individuals) between 2002and 2005 received care for otitis mediaor otitis externa; 4.6% of all patients(57,500 individuals) had conjunctivitis.Patients are increasingly realizing thatthey may receive treatment and preventiveservices for many common healthconcerns—including eye care and regulareye checkups—from convenientcare clinics.

Regular Eye Checkups for All

It is important for all individuals, fromchildren to senior citizens, to maintainproper eye health. One in 4 childrenmay have a vision problem, which mayimpact their performance in school, and1 in 3 seniors may have a vision problem,such as cataracts, glaucoma, ormacular degeneration, according to theVision Council of America. These conditions,if left untreated, can lead to moresevere complications in the future. Forexample, glaucoma, the leading causeof blindness, affects approximately 2.2million Americans aged 40 or older, butan estimated 1.5 million to 2 millionindividuals do not know that they havethe disease. Diagnosisand proper treatmentof this condition aredependent on regulareye exams.

Eye care clinics havegrown in recent years;Wal-Mart, for example,has greatly expandedits optometry servicesdivision since opening its first visioncenter in Plainfield, Indiana, in 1990.Prior to his passing in 1992, Sam Walton,founder of Wal-Mart, saw a need in themarketplace to provide patients withaffordable, convenient, quality eye care.

Today, independent and Wal-Mart?employed optometrists examine theinternal and external structures of theeye to diagnose eye diseases such asglaucoma, cataracts, and retinal disorders;systemic diseases such as hypertensionand diabetes; and vision conditionslike nearsightedness, farsightedness,astigmatism, and presbyopia. TheWal-Mart/Sam's Club Optical Divisionsees more than 6 million patients eachyear in nearly 3000 locations in 47 states.Wal-Mart Vision Center and Sam's ClubOptical are the second leading providerof optical goods (eyeglasses and contactlenses) in the United States.

Through its Optical Division, Wal-Marthopes to educate America on the importanceof an annual preventive eye healthexam. Education on this topic may bethe key to improving eye health acrossthe United States. According to a recentAmerican Optometric Association survey,almost 30% of US adults indicatedthat they do not get their eyes checkedby an eye doctor or an eye care specialistat least every 2 years.

"The important thing about eye careis prevention. There are many diseasesthat are asymptomatic, so we promotevisiting your optometrist every year,"explained Priti Patel, OD, director ofprofessional relations of Optical Health& Wellness at Wal-Mart. She added,"We can preserve someone's visionand check for the normal health of theeyes—there is more to it than glassesand contacts." Wal-Mart pharmacistsalso benefit from having on-site optometrists—when presented with eye healthquestions, they can simply refer patientsto the optometry services area.

Convenient Access

Optometry services provided at retailclinics are sure to grow in the comingyears, thanks to the convenience, affordability,and quality of care provided.These clinics make it simple for patientswho are having their prescription filledor are picking up an OTC medicine alsoto see a certified optometrist for aneye-related problem or regular checkup.Regular eye checkups are crucial tomaintaining proper eye health and diagnosingand treating many conditions,and retail clinics are in a prime positionto provide these services to a widerange of patients.