What is a Consulting Optometrist?


An optometrist is the clinical professional who examines the health of your eyes, carries out any appropriate management and gives you a prescription to buy glasses or contact lenses (historically we were called ‘opticians’; a word most of us are much more familiar with).



But why “Consulting”?


I have worked for many years in optics, from Saturday assistant at a large corporate opticians up to a Senior Lecturer at a University teaching the optometrists of tomorrow, and the key thing I have observed over this time which is deficient in eyecare is; communication. Patients tend to be rushed through their eye exam, told a quick diagnosis and sent on their way. If you don't think of, and ask, your questions on the day the window of opportunity is lost.


In this day and age if we have questions, where do we go? Google. And unfortunately (as most of us know already) when you Google your symptoms or your diagnosis, you become overwhelmed with worst case scenarios and horror stories. If you weren't anxious before you will be by the end of your search.


Therefore, as a Consulting Optometrist, my ethos is to conduct a thorough clinical eye examination (not just a sight test) and then take the time to discuss my findings with you. If you think of something later that you wish you'd asked, you simply get in touch and we'll discuss it further.



“This may be a silly question, but…”


In all my years seeing patients I have been asked many things about people's eyes but, no matter how bizarre, there hasn't been a single one that I would have branded a silly question. As your eyecare professional I would much rather you ask me about your eyes than Google; and unlike Google, I will do my best to make sure that you have understood the answer you are given.



How is the experience different with a Consulting Optometrist?


For a start you will not be a customer and you will not be seen for a sight test in my shop. You are a patient, coming for an eye exam at my practice. The difference in terminology may seem trivial but this is an important shift in mindset for us. You are not coming to see me principally to buy glasses or contact lenses; you are coming to have the health and functioning of your eyes checked; just as you would see a dentist regularly.


The tests that I do on your eyes use clinically robust instruments and my findings are documented so that I can monitor the long-term changes in your eye health. It is possible to detect things on your first exam with a new optometrist, but there are a significant number of conditions which are detected gradually, over time. Whomever you see as your optometrist, whether it be me or someone else, consistency is key and it is important to see the same person each time whenever possible.


I also don't sell spectacles at the practice. This may seem odd, but it is actually a model people in North America and Europe will be very familiar with. An optometrist or ophthalmologist performs the eye exam and provides you with a prescription. You can then take this prescription to an optician who sells spectacles. To ensure the advice I give you is 100% in your best clinical interests, I don't have any products to sell.


“Opticians are only out to sell glasses. Every time I go I get a new pair.” Not here.


Unfortunately optometrists have gained a reputation as “shopticians” over the years with all the adverts telling us where we should have gone and bombarding us with offers for multiple pairs. Whilst this has done wonders for making the wearing of spectacles acceptable (even desirable!) it has left the public very wary of sales pressure.


I have worked in such an environment, where bonuses are given for getting more ‘customers’ to buy glasses following their ‘eye test’. I soon saw that this was not for me; a ruthless salesman I am not. First and foremost I am a clinician and I have a conscience. If I do not feel there has been much change in your prescription I will tell you. Likewise if I say that you could do with updating your prescription, then that is my advice and I will explain to you why.



“So why don't you sell any glasses?”


Very simply because I do not want my patients to question whether the advice I have given is genuine or only because I need to make a sale. My professional fees may be slightly higher than elsewhere but that is because I cannot “make up the difference” by selling glasses. And I like to think that my patients have that peace of mind when I give them their prescription and my advice.


This may seem very unusual; we are all used to having an eye exam and then walking out of the room and choosing some new frames. In the UK we are actually being unusual in doing this; most other countries separate the clinically-focused eye exam from the retail-driven spectacle dispense.



“If you don't sell glasses, how will you know what to recommend?”


I have worked for several years in a high-end independent practice which means that I have worked with the newest types of spectacle lenses and coatings. Whilst these may not be within everyone's price range, I am able to explain to you, unbiased, what the different lenses do and why some cost more than others; which means that you will be in a better position to make an informed decision.


Just as a GP will not be the one who gives you the medication they prescribe, they still need to keep up to date with the preparations available in order to give you the best clinical and current advice; this is the same attitude I have with spectacle lenses.




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