New optical offers Virginia/North Carolina market comprehensive care

April 15, 2006

An ophthalmology practice located right on the border of two states, with patients coming from the many rural communities surrounding Danville, VA, and northern North Carolina, can be a real challenge.

It presented even more unique opportunities when Joseph E. O'Boyle, MD, decided to add an optical dispensary to his practice. For example, a challenge occurs for patients receiving post-cataract eyewear. Virginia and North Carolina are in two entirely different Medicare durable medical equipment regional carrier (DMERC) processing regions: Virginia, in Region B, and North Carolina, in Region C. Accuracy of claim processing must be set up accordingly.

Not to be deterred, Dr. O'Boyle took the task to heart and has accomplished the job. In fact, he may very well be setting precedence on "how to" for other ophthalmologists who are establishing dispensaries within their practices in rural communities. Dr. O'Boyle's goals were, "to provide both excellence in comprehensive ophthalmology, along with first-class optical dispensing for my patients," he said. "If you trust me with your eyes, you can trust me with your glasses," Dr. O'Boyle added.

In 1996, Dr. O'Boyle was a practicing ophthalmologist in the U.S. Army when he chose to join the private practice of an established ophthalmologist in Danville, VA. Dr. O'Boyle's desire was for his family to put down roots in a small-town lifestyle. "We can easily access the resources of the larger cities, but enjoy the lifestyle of the small community," he said.

But there was always that one final step in which the doctor had no control. Where did the eyewear prescriptions go and, most importantly, were they being filled to his and his patients' satisfaction? As is typical of many solo ophthalmology practices, an optical dispensary was within close proximity to the practice. However, patients literally had to leave the practice, walk outside, and into another medical complex to get to the optical store. Ironically, Dr. O'Boyle owned the property that the optical shop rented.

There is always an issue of quality control when you let your patients walk out of the practice. The ophthalmologist who does not control the outcome of the patient's prescription-the eyewear-can never be sure that the patient receives the best possible vision that the prescription was intended to produce.

"It was very inconvenient both to the patient and to me not to have immediate access to the optician to discuss prescription issues when I needed or wanted to," Dr. O'Boyle said. He noted that he would not be satisfied until he could be sure that his patients received the quality of eyewear, as well as the eye care, equal to what he was providing in his practice.

Setting goals