Ophthalmic Lenses

The Program Helping Me Transform Lives in My Community

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By Tia Horie, OD

June 23, 2021

As an optometrist, practice growth and profitability are important, but only half the picture of professional fulfillment. The other half is doing good and giving back to your community, especially during a time like the one we lived through over the last year. Changing Life through Lenses (CLTL)®, a program from Essilor Vision Foundation (EVF), is allowing me to do just that.

EVF works with schools, nonprofits, charitable doctors and communities to provide vision exams and glasses to under-served individuals. Through CLTL, eye doctors and charities can create an online account for no-cost prescription eyeglasses, a frame collection, and access to resources on charitable engagement. The program provides free lenses, frames and lab services when an eye care professional gives a vision exam to a patient who otherwise would not be able to get vision care.

Here are the details on my involvement in this charity, and how it is allowing me to grow as a practice owner and optometrist.

Expanding Much-Needed Access to Care
I am a participant in a few charitable eye exam/eye glass programs. I feel that it is important to help those who need it. You never know when you could be the one who needs help. I have been enrolled in the CLTL program since 2019.

Since we started participating in CLTL we have seen an increase in the demand for charitable services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw patients lose their insurance due to job layoffs. We needed to utilize the CLTL program plus a few others to meet the demand.

Thirty-five percent of our patients are on Medicaid and other state-funded programs. Our office is one of the few offices in our area, Vacaville, Calif., that continues to serve these types of insurances and programs. When I was a child, my family was on welfare. We had to utilize similar programs. There were few offices we could utilize and few choices of frames at the practices open to our situation. My office offers one of the largest frame options in our area for programs like CLTL. We continue to do so for those who have lost, or do not have, access to better insurance plans.

Providing Pandemic Relief
Children were especially hit hard during the pandemic. During the pandemic’s quarantine, many young patients’ parents lost their jobs. They did not have vision insurance anymore. They were long-time patients whose children needed glasses to do their school work. During 2020, they direly needed a new prescription and glasses to get them by. We were able to use CLTL to bridge the gap until they were able to gain new employment and new insurance. Unfortunately, we have heard similar stories throughout the pandemic.

If COVID taught us anything, it is that the unimaginable can happen at any time. You never know when the tables will turn, and you will be the one in need.

Make Doing Good a Seamless Part of Your Day
I have woven the CLTL patients into my regular patient flow. The time commitment is limited. An eye exam takes 20-30 minutes and choosing frames takes even less time typically. Participating does not interrupt the flow, and enhances what we can offer.

Participating in charities provides our practice with exposure to the local community, which can eventually turn CLTL patients into future-paying patients. However, the practice benefit really doesn’t make a difference. We would do it even without the potential for any future benefits.

Eye exams in my area are $135 and a basic pair of glasses are supplied through the CLTL program. The only cost is the eye exam, and only half the patients need a new eye exam. So, if I average it to 10.5 patients a year, the cost is about $1,417.50 annually. That’s not much cost to do a tremendous amount of good.

Easy to Get Started Helping
To make participation even easier, EVF is committing up to $250,000 in the CLTL program to provide support for practices that participate in the CLTL program through the CLTL Relief Fund.

CLTL participants who provide vision services to charitable patients between June 1 and December 31, 2021, can receive a subsidy of up to $1,500. To receive payment, ODs first must be enrolled in the CLTL program. The subsidy is intended to help with the costs for vision services including identifying, qualifying and examining eligible patients that results in ordering glasses from the Changing Life through Lenses website. Click HERE to register to be a part of CLTL.

Show Patients You Are Still There For Them
CLTL and other programs like it are fulfilling. Juggling these programs with paying patients can be challenging, but I think the benefits outweigh the negatives.

I am so thankful for CLTL. I feel like it came at just the right time. With all the challenges of COVID, including not being able to provide routine care during the quarantine, I am glad I have this to fall back on as a way to assist my community. Patients really appreciate it.

Tia Horie, OD, is the owner of Horie Optometry, a Vision Source Signature Eye Care practice, in Vacaville, Calif. To contact her: horieoptometry@aol.com

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