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Optometry and Ophthalmology Working Together, Not Separately

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on April 13, 2021

There was a time when optometrists and ophthalmologists did not work together. If you talk to older optometrists and ophthalmologists, you will learn that they considered each other rivals. Now many optometrists and ophthalmologists work together, either in a co-management capacity or within the same practice. One reason for this is the growth of refractive surgery, in particular LASIK. Another reason has to do with healthcare reforms. With some insurance companies not accepting consultation codes, many eye care practices may choose to be integrated in order to be more efficient. Still, how did they go from rivals to colleagues? Here’s how a few practices utilize both optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Empire Eye is an ophthalmologic practice in Spokane Valley, Washington and the practice has been utilizing optometrists since the late 1980s. It started with the co-management of cataract patients and when LASIK came along, the optometrists on staff were involved from referrals to post-operative care. Currently, the optometrists on staff organize continuing education programs, develop marketing programs, as well as do all routine and post-operative care. In addition, this practice has an ocular surface disease clinic that is run entirely by optometrists. This allows the ophthalmologists in the practice to concentrate on patients who either have serious vision conditions or need surgery.

Another practice, Elmquist Eye Group in Fort Myers, FL also has both optometrists and ophthalmologists on staff. Owner, ophthalmologist Trevor Elmquist, DO is an advocate of what he calls “success through cooperation”. His practice is an integrated practice, in which ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, etc. work together in the same practice to provide vision care to patients. He feels that when both optometrists and ophthalmologists work together, the patient benefits since they can care for the vast needs and spectrum of eye patients more efficiently.

Another way the optometry and ophthalmology partnership works is in the area of refining both patient care and treatment. Two eye doctors from Italy, Edoardo Ligabue, MD, and Cristina Giordano, OD started working together in the 1990’s when corneal topography was introduced. At this time, they wrote their first article on the corneal map of the Orbscan II, a device that provides a 3D slit scan of the anterior and posterior surface of the cornea.

As studies of aberrometry (measurement of refractive aberrations) appeared, the doctors implemented aberrometric evaluations. In 2007, they wrote an article about interpreting aberrometric measures in cataract surgery by measuring the errors in refraction through skiascopy to evaluate visual quality after intraocular lens implantation. Next, they started speaking at international meetings where they presented papers on the optical properties of premium intraocular lenses, patient selection and how to best examine patients pre and postoperatively. Drs. Ligabue and Giordano found that their partnership helps in finding solutions for patients who complain of problems, such as low visual quality or photic phenomena.

What makes the collaboration unique is that in Italy, partnerships between optometrists and ophthalmologists are rare. In fact, regulations in Italy assign the assistant role in ophthalmology to the orthoptic graduate. So, their partnership, like others mentioned, benefits the patient and the practice.

As ophthalmologist Trevor Elmquist, DO stated about optometric and ophthalmologic partnerships “It matters very little what the two letters are on the end of your name. As long as you are practicing and caring for your patient at a high level of skill and quality, and within the bounds of your license, then have at it.”


12 Responses to “Optometry and Ophthalmology Working Together, Not Separately”

  1. October 26, 2021 at 4:24 pm, Max Jones said:

    Thanks for the info about ophthalmology. My brother has terrible eyesight. I’ll tell him to learn more about ophthalmology.

    • October 27, 2021 at 11:27 am, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thank you for reading our blog. We’re glad that you found this blog entry helpful to you.

  2. January 06, 2022 at 11:57 pm, Kristofer Van Wagner said:

    I do agree with this post that when looking for an optometrist, it is best that we ensure they are certified and qualified. It makes sense as in doing so, it ensures that we seek the right people. I will definitely keep this information in mind.

    • January 10, 2022 at 1:05 pm, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for your comments and for reading our blog. We appreciate it.

  3. February 21, 2022 at 4:01 pm, Victoria Addington said:

    I liked that this post explained that ophthalmologists focus on patients who have severe eyes conditions or require surgery. My grandfather needs cataract surgery to correct his blurry vision. I think it’s best to turn to an ophthalmologist with vast experience in cataract surgery.

    • February 21, 2022 at 4:50 pm, Ilena Di Toro said:

      We’re glad you found this blog post helpful. Thanks for reading our blog.

  4. May 05, 2022 at 3:22 am, Victoria Addington said:

    It was interesting to know that ophthalmologists focus on patients who have severe vision illnesses or require surgery. My friend is looking for an eye doctor that can help her correct her blurry vision. I think she should go to a clinic that caters to any eye condition.

    • May 05, 2022 at 11:04 am, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for your comments and for reading our blog. We appreciate it.

  5. September 15, 2022 at 7:52 pm, Jessie Holloway said:

    Thanks so much for the small background on ophthalmologists and optometrists. My mom has been wanting to get LASIK done for some time now and now that she’s not working she’s been looking to get it done. We’ve been looking into ophthalmologists and optometrists and seeing what the procedure might be like.

    • September 21, 2022 at 11:23 am, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for taking the time to read our blog. We are glad that you were able to learn something from this blog entry.

  6. May 04, 2023 at 4:32 pm, Victoria Addington said:

    I liked it the most when you shared that optometry and ophthalmology can refine both patient care and treatment. My friend wants to know his child’s vision. I think it’s best to opt for children’s routine eye examinations to obtain accurate results.

    • May 11, 2023 at 10:48 am, Ilena Di Toro said:

      Thanks for reading our blog. We appreciate it.

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