By David Bloch, OD
May 5, 2021
Learning-related vision problems, such as dyslexia, are common and can cause great frustration for children learning to read. In my practice, we have taken a new approach to helping these patients. Here is how our treatment system works, how these services are building my practice and how I am making it possible for other practices to adopt this approach to helping patients make progress in learning to read.
A Common Need You May Be Overlooking
By utilizing visually based methods and co-managing patients with other specialists, optometrists can dramatically help people with reading difficulties. Optometry has an excellent opportunity to tap this niche market. Offering reading diagnosis and treatment to patients can add more revenue than any refractive or eye disease patient. Essentially, every person who walks into the doctor’s office knows someone with a reading problem. But not everyone can provide them with an effective and efficient treatment.
Combining Three Therapies to Address Reading Challenges
The program I launched in my practice, and which I am now sharing with other practices, Reading Without Limits, is a combination of vision therapy, reading therapy and cognitive therapy. I describe the program as “visual cross training.”
Addressing the Concrete Problem of Not Being Able to Read
Just as parents are willing to pay thousands of dollars for their kid’s teeth to be straight, they are often willing to pay thousands of dollars for their child’s reading struggles to lessen. There is perceived high value in helping to improve a patient’s self-esteem both from the parent’s perspective and the doctor’s perspective by helping them to more easily read.
Helping Patients & Generating Impressive Revenues
In 2020, I evaluated 36 patients for severe reading disabilities. Of the 36 patients, 24 enrolled in Reading Without Limits. Each patient with a reading evaluation spends about $500-$600 for the program’s four-phase evaluation depending on whether they have insurance to cover the eye exam. Then, each patient who enrolls in the program attends an average of 18 therapy sessions. This generates about another $4,000 in visits and required equipment, not including any eyewear that maybe required. Keeping in mind my office only saw emergency visits between March 15-May 10 due to COVID, I found it especially impressive that these patients generated in excess of $100,000 last year.
How to Do It In Your Practice
How the Reading Without Limits System Works
There is a four-phase assessment that my Reading Without Limits patients undergo.
Phase I is a routine eye exam. The eye is the receiver of visual information, so it is necessary to make sure that brain input is clear and accurate.
Phase II is a computerized tracking evaluation using goggles that record saccadic eye movements and eye coordination while reading. The needed equipment costs about $3,500, and does not include the cost of a laptop computer (if the OD does not already have one).
Phase III is an assessment of the patient’s word recognition skill. This is the Reading Without Limits Pattern Recognition test, and it is standardized. A common difficulty is that the reader jumbles text and does not recognize word patterns, which causes them to misidentify words and not comprehend content. This phase determines what strategy the patient uses for identifying words and classifies the severity of the reading challenge. The equipment for this phase costs $150-$200.
Other Articles to Explore
Phase IV is a visual efficiency exam that determines the strength, flexibility and stamina required to read for extended periods. This phase uses optometric equipment that costs about $600. This equipment includes the refractor, prism bars, prism flippers, lens flippers, 2 and 3rd degree fusion tests, anaglyph glasses, near point testing cards, for example. The equipment is used for measuring accommodation, vergence, saccades and fusion. This includes vergence ranges and vergence facility, accommodative amplitudes and accommodative facility, accommodative convergence ratio, degrees of fusion and suppression.
Do Good & Spur Great Profitability & Growth
Helping patients struggling to read is not just a great thing to do as a doctor, it’s a tremendous practice growth and profitability opportunity.