Appears in issue JBO - Volume 23 - Issue 1
Background: As more people are living longer with the help of medicine and technology, a greater number have ocular disease that can cause progressive vision loss. Low vision rehabilitation services exist to evaluate these patients and prescribe low vision devices to maximize remaining vision. Despite the number of potential patients, there are fewer referrals to low vision rehabilitation services than one might predict. This study attempted to determine the impetus of, and referral criteria used by, various eye care professionals to refer for low vision rehabilitative services. Once barriers to referral are determined, this information can be used to develop educational materials that can be presented and distributed to eye care providers.
Methods: A multiple-choice survey questionnaire was sent randomly to 101 ophthalmologists and 180 optometrists who practice within 100 miles of Southern College of Optometry, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Results: The survey was completed by 14 ophthalmologists (13.9%) and 69 optometrists (38.3%). Of those who responded, 64% of ophthalmologists and 36% of optometrists considered referral for low vision services at visual acuity of 20/100 or worse. In contrast, 14% of ophthalmologists and 26% of optometrists considered referral for low vision services at visual acuity of 20/60. Of all respondents, 75% stated the primary reason for referral was difficulty with activities of daily living.
Conclusions: By waiting until severe vision loss has occurred before considering referral, eye care providers are allowing patients to reach signifi cant functional impairment before receiving rehabilitation services. A paradigm shift needs to occur in which patients’ functional needs are prioritized above their measured visual acuities in order to maximize effective patient care, including low vision rehabilitation.