The tips I’m going to mention today work regardless if you’re a new patient or an existing one to the practice you are going to, but this is really more for the new patient going into an office for the first time.
It is important to prepare for your appointment even before making the first phone call to schedule it. It is important to get an annual eye health evaluation (eye exam) so the first thing you need to do is choose the right doctor for your needs. Refer to my post, The Three O’s of Eyecare, for a description of your choices.
Before you make your first phone call, determine what optical benefits you have, if any. Please understand, your medical benefits and your vision benefits are not always the same. Vision benefits do not always send out a card. This doesn’t mean the benefits are the same. For example, you may have Blue Cross Blue Shield for your medical, but your vision benefits may be through VSP. If you aren’t sure, please ask someone in human resources for clarity. If you, or your employer, are paying into vision benefits, you want to be able to maximize on your savings. You should also know who the subscriber is (this is the actual employee of the company in which you have the coverage) as well as his or her date of birth.
Here is a true scenario I have seen happen more than once: Patient calls and says their benefits are through Blue Cross Blue Shield. The office takes all of their information. Because the patient did not know WHO their vision benefits were through, the office used the little information they had to go on and determined the patient had an Exam only plan through VSP using the patient’s social security number. The patient came in, paid their copay for their exam and received their 20% off they eye wear (the standard discount when you have a VSP exam only benefit). Six months later, they are talking to a co-worker who is saying how much they saved on their eye wear with their plan. The first patient didn’t understand why they spent so much more. It was discovered the patient’s exam only plan was a part of their Blue Cross Blue Shield but they were also paying for an actual VSP plan in which progressive lenses (no line bifocals) and photochromic (Transition lenses which change outdoors) were covered benefits but the plan was only located using a plan specific identification number. There is no way the office would have known it existed unless the patient gave them the ID number.
As you can see, it is important to know what you have. If you have VSP or Eyemed, you can even go one step further and register on their website where it will give you a breakdown of your benefits as well as your unique identification number, if you don’t already have it.
Now you are ready to call and make an appointment. Make sure you have your medical as well as vision benefit information available. The first thing you will want to ask the office is if they take both your medical and vision benefits. If they take one but not the other, you may want to reconsider scheduling there unless you are choosing the office for a specific reason, such as another patient referral or a medical condition you know they are able to handle.
Have a few different dates and times you are available ready. Remember, it may be a week or two, or more if you want a specific doctor, before you can get it. The more flexible your schedule is, the more likely you will get scheduled quicker. Be sure to let them know if you are interested in, or currently wearing, contact lenses. All eye health examinations will include an eyeglass prescription BEFORE they fit you with contacts. Your contact lens prescription must be updated annually.
On the day of your examination….
Bring your insurance identification cards as well as a picture ID
If you wear your contacts in, be sure to also bring your current pair of eyeglasses in with you. If you wear different pairs for different activities, such as playing the piano or working on the computer, be sure to bring them all in with you.
If you are a new patient, having a copy of your most recent eyeglass prescription is helpful along with your current contact lens prescription, or the boxes.
Bring a list of your current medications including the dosages.
If you have vision benefits, having a copy of your coverage is also a good idea
Last, but not least, bring a good attitude! While many offices strive to stay on schedule, sometimes the unexpected happens. Not everyone realizes how many medical conditions are now treated at your optometrist / ophthalmologist office and, just like any medical profession, the schedule can get shifted slightly due to an eye emergency.
I hope this helps you be better prepared and informed before your next optical appointment!
If you have any questions or need help navigating your benefits, leave a comment or reach out to me. Please do not include any personal information until I have responded to you. 🤓