NCL urges consumers to know eye-care credentials

January 1, 2006

The future of ophthalmology and patient care may well lie in patient education. According to a new study by the National Consumers League (NCL), many consumers—including those who wear glasses and contact lenses—are confused about the differences among various eye-care providers, the services they perform, and the training and education they must complete.

As a result the NCL, the nation's oldest consumer advocacy organization, is urging consumers to know who their eye-care practitioners are, and to take an active role in their eye care.

NCL commissioned the Web-based survey of 600 adults over the age of 25 to explore consumers' understanding of the eye-care field. The survey was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant provided by the academy.

This preference only increased once respondents were provided with information about the difference between various eye-care providers. Respondents indicated a strong preference to have ophthalmologists address more advanced eye-care needs, including surgery (95%) and prescribing medications (92%)-all powerful evidence for the need to educate consumers to take an active role in their care and to understand who it is they're seeking treatment from.

To help consumers better understand eye care, NCL has produced a white paper about the state of eye care in the United States and created new Web resources and tips on its Web site, http://www.nclnet.org/. From the Web site, consumers can learn about the various members of the eye-care team, their training, and the services they can provide. It also includes tips and a checklist of questions for patients to ask their eye-care providers about treatments and services.

The white paper lays out today's challenging health-care environment: the increasing demand for more preventive care and more effective chronic disease management, in competition with an increasing sensitivity to cost control and productivity, leading to the expanding role of non-physician practitioners providing medical care. The paper also explores the real challenges this trend poses to quality patient care, as well as the legislative developments and policy decisions it has unleashed. Most importantly, it provides a framework to guide consumers as they make eye-care provider decisions, ultimately encouraging them to take control of their health-care choices.

The academy has made it a priority to educate the public about this study and NCL's new resources, but as always, ophthalmology's best advocate is you.

EyeNet stands out in surveys

PERQ/HCI, an independent research company, asked a random sample of U.S. ophthalmologists about their opinions and reading habits of the major ophthalmic publications, both peer-reviewed and trade. The information was then compiled for two studies, FOCUS and Media-Chek.

Of the 18 publications examined, EyeNet magazine and Ophthalmology came out at the top of both studies. In Media-Chek, EyeNet rose to second place in 2005 from fifth place in 2004 for its number of high readers, those who read the magazine frequently and thoroughly. Ophthalmology remained at first place in high readers. EyeNet and Ophthalmology tied for second in its high readers as a percent of its total readers.