Is the one calling the shots at your eye doctor’s office even a doctor? At most large opticals nowadays, the office manager and/or business owner has no optical experience, no medical expertise, and certainly no authority to comment on care. But that doesn’t prevent them from setting strict timeframes for appointments, making equipment decisions, and even limiting prescription medical devices available for the patients of the doctors that work for them. Best way to find out if the location is doctor owned is to simply ask. Some chains have independent doctors of Optometry working as completely autonomous entities, yet others say that they are independent but hire them as employees or dictate a schedule without the background or training necessary to do so. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: if the exam took less time than the process of buying the glasses (not including frame selection), then one of two things is likely true: a) the exam was not thorough and is not worth having there or b) the purchasing processes in place a broken and need addressing.
Is the exam equipment modern and up to date? Most often patients can observe this themselves. If the test does something we’ve never experienced at any other eye exam, it’s probably new. If it is attached to a CRT monitor or dot matrix printer rather than a tablet, laptop or flatscreen, the technology is probably out of date. Be sure you are visiting a location that prides itself in the latest technology to receive the best care.
Does the doctor communicate with the lab that will be constructing your lenses? Best way to ask this is to address the doctor with a simple question: “what brand lens makes the design you’d recommend for me today?” If they can’t or won’t answer, it is likely that they don’t know how your prescription will be executed if filled at that very same location. The doctor should at least know what lens design (office, progressive, degressive, single vision, spherical, aspheric, digital, traditional, customized with position of wear, optimized with algorithmic compensation…) best suits your prescription. Unfortunately, the most common answer will be the “house brand” or the “HD lens” proprietary to the corporation. These often are the cheapest lens designs made out of the least expensive materials with the worst non-glare coatings. The reason why is simple — margins. Sale of inexpensive materials only makes profit for these businesses if sold by unskilled labor at a high volume. The irony is that most corporate practices that have a lab on premises are the worst offenders of this. The lab doesn’t talk to the doctor, and the doctor doesn’t even know the lab technicians by name.
Do you get the level of service and professionalism you expect at a doctor’s office? Often times when our doctors return from work at a location where the culture isn’t like a private practice, they note an environment less like a a doctor’s office and more like the DMV: patients waiting for a turn to be examined in the order in which they signed in followed by another wait in line to purchase. If the purchase of medical devices and appliances at an office where a doctor just examined your eye health (to rule out eye disease and ocular manifestations of systemic conditions) feels like a bad retail experience… if they charge sales tax on a commodity rather than treat it as a medical appliance (glasses) or device (contacts)… if you felt rushed during the exam time or left to wait while the salesperson helped the person in line ahead of you… Then try someplace new! Try a doctor-owned optometric office, and look for doctors that are proud members of the Illinois Optometric Association (a part of the American Optometric Association) because if your doctor doesn’t love his/her profession, you probably don’t want an exam from her/him. You can find these highly qualified and motivated doctors at https://www.aoa.org/doctor-locator-search?tab=basic&sso=y&ct=8097c119e954a02b5684c16aeb567453126588ebc0eb0e90121c3cf945de7b32b579873d56594226f21b123e3641b23d266f783b372127b44951e66e83e5c00a