It’s that season again—you’re vision is getting a little bit blurry, and it’s time to get a new prescription so you can order new lenses. But where to start? It’s frustrating to go on the hunt for a great eye doctor, and it can feel overwhelming to know how to even start.
That’s why we put together this handy checklist on how to find a great eye doctor for you, because we believe it shouldn’t be hard to find an optometrist you can trust—and return to year after year, so you don’t have to relive this struggle every time you need an updated prescription.
Here are seven things you should look for when searching for a new eye doctor:
Ask for referrals. You don’t have to start this journey alone. Begin by talking to friends and family—Do they have an optometrist they would highly recommend and return to year after year? Is there an eye doctor for whom they have written a glowing Google review or recommendation? Or—equally helpful—did they have a horrible experience with an eye doctor they would never return to?
You can also ask your primary care physician. They often have a network of healthcare providers they’ve worked with and can recommend as trustworthy resources, and they may be able to match you to an optometrist who specializes in any specific health needs you may have.
Finally, don’t forget to look through your insurance network for providers. You may also need to cross-check any recommendations you get with your insurance provider if you carry vision insurance.
Check the Google Reviews. Once you’ve gotten some recommendations (or found some names searching the internet), be sure to take time to read the Google Reviews. You will ideally find someone with a lot of reviews because it’s much easier to trust their rating. Someone with an average of 4.5 stars out of dozens of reviews is far more likely to provide excellent care than someone with an average of 5 stars, but only a couple of reviews. (For all you know, those two reviews were the new doctor’s parents.)
Look for experience. While new doctors fresh out of medical school can definitely provide quality care, you’d ideally find an optometrist who has many years of experience under his or her belt, or, alternatively, a new doctor who is partnering with a more experienced doctor. There are just some things that only experience can teach, and you want to go to someone you know you can trust.
Call and talk to the office staff. You’ll get a good feel for an office based on how you are treated as a prospective customer. It’s fine to call and ask questions like, “What can I expect from your office?” before booking an appointment. It’s important to feel comfortable and well-cared for in a medical facility; this is one of the best ways you can “feel out” how comfortable you will be.
Ask about pricing. As you probably know, this is especially important if you don’t have vision insurance. However, many people with vision insurance don’t realize that their costs can still fluctuate from office to office. Additionally, most insurances will cover certain parts of your appointment, like the routine check-up, but not other parts, like certain tests. Be sure to ask exactly what will be performed at your check-up and what parts your insurance will cover and what you will be responsible for.
It’s important to know how much you’ll be spending not only on your check-up, but on any lenses or other products you will need to buy. Take time to ask specific questions about the prices so that you can find the affordable care that you deserve. Don’t overpay for vision services when you don’t have to!
Ask what services are provided. Part of the reason different optometry practices charge different prices is because they offer different services. Even though two practices may both advertise a “general check-up,” what they mean by that and include in that can vary greatly. Additionally, some practices may use different equipment, which can cause a variation in prices.
Moreover, it is not uncommon for eye doctors to add “bonus” services to the general check-up package. Often, these services do help screen for potential problems; however, it is rare that they find these problems and end up charging you for something you didn’t need and perhaps didn’t even know you were getting.
Before you commit to the general check-up option of the practice you go to, ask what is included and why. Ask if the optometrist highly recommends each service, and which services he or she would say is essential. Then, call around and ask other practices the same questions. You can feel good about paying for the services you hear are recommended at each practice as essential.
Finally, you want to hear that the eye doctor you are going to not only can handle a variety of conditions and cases but has a great referral network. This way you can be confident that no matter what comes up, your eye doctor can either take care of it for you or put you in the hands of someone else who can.
Determine appointment availability and “turnaround time. ”Your time is valuable and your vision is essential. Once you know you need updated lenses or other care for your vision, you don’t want to have to wait weeks or even months to not only get the care you need but the lenses or other intervention products that are essential to your ability to see.
Take time to not only call and ask when you can schedule your appointment (and if they have time slots that work with your schedule, like evening and weekend appointments) but how long it typically takes to receive your new lenses. Some clinics take weeks and weeks; others can provide you with what you need on the same day as your appointment.
It’s important to remember that all of this time you take to research and screen your future optometrist is worth it. Proactive eye care is essential in caring for your vision for the long term and can help you catch underlying health problems like glaucoma and even diabetes. More importantly, the research you do now will save you hours of repeating the process in the future if you can find the right doctor to fit your needs now.
Ready to start asking your questions now? Our team at Joseph Gowan OD & Associates would be happy to help you begin discovering the answers you’re looking for.