Advancement in the science of eye care over the past 10 years has led to dramatically better outcomes for many people with impaired vision. Take anti-VEGF medications for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) for example. Anti-VEGFs, which are injected into the eye, slow the growth of blood vessels that often lead to wet AMD, one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. In a study funded by the National Eye Institute and the National Institutes of Health, half of those with wet AMD who were injected with an anti-VEGF drug still had vision 20/40 or better after five years of treatment. Those outcomes would have been unimaginable two decades ago.
Despite all the progress, too often patients don’t receive optimal care because of poor coordination between primary eye care providers — optometrists and general ophthalmologists — and the ophthalmologists providing subspecialty care.
Ideally, upon identifying a condition that needs subspecialty care, the primary eye care provider will promptly refer the patient to the appropriate specialist. The specialist gives the care needed and refers the patient back to the primary eye care provider for follow-up. As I’ve seen in my more than 30 years as a retinal specialist and surgeon, when effectively managed, this referral loop ensures patients receive prompt, high-quality, end-to-end care.
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