Optometrists in Alberta are designated primary care providers for eye and vision health. This means if you have concerns with your eyes or vision, you can see your optometrist and it will be covered under Alberta Healthcare – in other words, there will be no direct charge to you.
Some years back, the Province recognized that optometrists are experts in dealing with eye disease and vision problems, that their training is superior to family doctors in this area, and that the mixed private/public model means that costs of care are greatly reduced. As an example, if you cannot see your family doctor regarding an eye health problem and choose instead to go to the Emergency Room, the cost is at least 10X what it would cost to see your family doctor of optometry.
What does this mean to you?
- Wait times to see doctors of optometry are generally much shorter than seeing your family medical doctor.
- Doctors of optometry have years of training in eye health and vision problems, compared to a few weeks that family physicians get.
- Costs to healthcare for care in optometry clinics is much lower compared to using family medical doctors or emergency room doctors.
- Doctors of optometry are much better prepared to deal with more issues locally, as opposed to escalating problems to specialist care – this saves you money from travel expenses, and saves the Province money from unnecessary specialist care.
- Doctors of optometry can also detect many other disease conditions not related to the eyes, and arrange for early prevention of more serious problems.
The good news is that this is a proven cost-effective model for delivery of healthcare. Seeing your optometrist for care costs the Province less than $60. Going to the Emergency Room for eye and vision care costs a minimum of 10X as much. You are never told this, and it results in inflated healthcare budgets for no good reason.
“Seeing your optometrist for care costs the Province less than $60. Going to the Emergency Room for eye and vision care costs a minimum of 10X as much.”
There are many good reasons to see your optometrist for eye care. They are the best source for professional and expert care, and a great value to the Province. Now it’s up to Alberta Health to ensure that family doctors and general health clinics refer patients to optometry, not the ER, when problems arise. This is good for all concerned.