Patient Experience

The Good & Bad: What a Retired OD Noticed as a Patient in 3 Offices

By Diane Palombi, OD

March 4, 2020

A visit to the eye doctor is an interesting experience for a retired optometrist. There are many things an OD notices that the average patient would not. You wonder why the doctor and office do things the way they do, and what you would do differently.

Here’s what lackluster experiences at two optometry offices and a positive experience at the office of James Matt Kirks, OD, in St. Louis, showed me about the good and bad of optometry today.

While I was a practicing optometrist, I either had an employee optometrist examine me or I refracted myself. In private practice, I did my own exam except for ophthalmoscopy and biomicroscopy, which is impossible to do to yourself, so I would visit an ophthalmologist whom I commonly referred to. When I gave up my license, that option was no longer available, so I had to become a real patient to another doctor. It was a strange experience for me, being on the other end of the phoropter.

Couldn’t Manage a Simple Prescription Change
When I sold my practice, I had several exams with the group that bought my practice. My first exam was at my old office. The exam went well with one of the partners, and I purchased new glasses. Unfortunately, my husband did not have such luck. He had seen a different doctor. His prescription had been changed significantly in one eye and he had challenges with the new prescription from the first minute. The doctor had increased his plus 1.25D in his right eye and decreased his left eye by .50 D.

He had several rechecks and remakes, but the issue was never straightened out before it was time for us to go to our winter home in Florida. The end result was several pairs of unusable glasses.

Adequate–Not Great–and Unfriendly Staff
Understandably, I did not want to see the same doctor as my husband. Unfortunately, this doctor was the only optometrist at my old office location. So, I ended up driving to a different location, much further away, for my next exams with one of the practice owners. The exams were adequate, but not great.

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I have always wanted to see Dr. Kirks for an exam, so when I was charged full price for my last exam by my old practice, it gave me another reason to make the switch. The office did not want to bill my medical insurance even though I have a retinal hole and I have no vision insurance. This did not surprise me much. I was never impressed with the demeanor of the front-desk staff at this office. They were not friendly or welcoming.

Friendly Front Desk, Doctor Who Shows He Cares & Strong Medical Eyecare
Dr Kirks and I started our practice at the same time, but we were always friendly versus rivals. He was more up on medical procedures than myself so I would send him patients for foreign body removals or more difficult medical cases. We even shared an optometric technician.

Dr. Kirks’ staff made me feel welcomed. They were friendly and professional. Being examined by Dr. Kirks was almost like being examined by a male version of myself. We are so alike in demeanor and personality. You can tell that he genuinely cares about his patients. He is much more computer-savvy than me, though, which I could see by how adeptly he managed his electronic health record.

Competent Optical Staff with a Soft-Sell Approach
The optical staff were professional. I brought in several hardly worn frames that I had accumulated over the years. An optician looked them over and made recommendations on which would work best for me. She asked me what features I wanted in my glasses. Not once did I feel pressured to buy a new frame or upgrade to features I did not want. The opticians even offered to see if their optical lab, which also use to be my optical lab, was would give me a discount since I have no vision insurance.

My glasses were ready in a week. My old lab did give me a nice discount. I put on my new prescription and adapted immediately. I even wore them most of the day, which I normally don’t do. I had gotten Transitions lenses, so I could read by the pool in Florida. I enjoyed going inside and out and leaving my glasses on.

I had a great overall experience at Dr. Kirks’ office. My husband got an exam and new lenses from Dr. Kirks shortly after my exam. He also liked Dr. Kirks and his staff. He can wear his glasses, and his eyes have adapted well to his new prescription.

Have you visited another optometrist’s office recently as a patient? What did you notice that you will use to improve your own practice?

 

Diane Palombi, OD, retired now, is the former owner of Palombi Vision Center in Wentzville, Mo. To contact her: dlpod1@hotmail.com

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