Research. Quality. Education

5 Essentials for Low Vision Practice

Posted by Bianca Granado-Villari on Feb 22, 2016 8:55:48 AM

"285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide:

39 million are blind and 246 have low vision. (WHO 2014)"

The expanding elderly population in many countries, coupled with advances in treatment and in neonatology continue to steadily increase the likelihood that your eye care practice will be called on to care for a growing number of patients with low vision.

"Vision impairment is defined as the best-corrected visual acuity less than 6/12 (<20/40) in the better-seeing eye. (NIH/NEI 2014)"

Over the more than 40 years of the training and consultation we have provided for hospitals, clinics and ophthalmology and optometry providers worldwide, we've identified 5 "essentials" for delivering quality
low vision care:

  1. CHARTS — Using the right charts — charts that are appropriate to the patient's abilities, are scientifically grounded, technically superior and durable -- insure accuracy and replicability and will save you time. Be sure to have distance and near charts in LogMAR format and contrast sensitivity tests using optotypes that reflect the range of patients in your practice (children/adults/non-readers). With the right chart you can easily determine the starting point of magnification needed for any patient to see a target size optotype, and make the appropriate modifications based on contrast and visual field results.

  2. LOW VISION DEVICES — Have a selection of low vision optical and electronic devices in the office, and knowledge of others. While many patients with low vision initially request glasses, the close working distance can be challenging. Hand held magnifiers with illumination in a range of powers and illuminated stand magnifiers will be useful to many for near tasks. Sweeping advances in the capabilities, portability and ubiquity of electronic devices make them devices of choice for many patients. And don't forget about the importance of task lighting!

  3. STAFF TRAINING — Sensitize your staff to the issues of working with patients who have low vision, and with their families. The steps you take to make your practice "low vision patient friendly" will benefit your other patients, too. Paying attention to print legibility and to color, contrast and lighting in the waiting room, hallways, exam rooms and bathrooms will enhance accessibility for all.

  4. REFERRALS — Help colleagues in your geographic area to be aware that you offer low vision care, and know to whom you can refer for additional indispensable vision rehabilitation services as needed. Patients may need orientation and mobility training, help with activities of daily living or counseling to adjust to vision loss, in addition to the low vision devices you prescribe.

  5. COMMITMENT — Training in low vision care is available from many sources. A straightforward examination procedure exists and can be modified to suit your practice situation. With careful planning, low vision care can be integrated into your practice efficiently. The potential benefits to your patients and your practice are considerable. The important thing is to get started.

Mary Ann Lang

Karen Seidman

Mary Ann Lang, PhD and Karen Seidman, MPA, both 30+ year veterans in the Vision Rehabilitation and Education fields, founded North Star Vision Group in 2009. North Star's mission is to enable organizations and professionals worldwide to provide accessible and appropriate services and products to people who have impaired vision. North Star and its global faculty of experts work closely with Good-Lite to provide unique professional training to ophthalmologists and optometrists, nurses, occupational therapists, ophthalmic technicians, opticians, teachers and others to give them the specialized skills needed to effectively help their patients/students with vision loss. North Star develops training materials, online and face-to-face curricula and teaching tools. North Star also conducts customized consultations with hospitals, not-for-profit/for-profit organizations and private practices to support them in developing high quality low vision clinical and rehabilitation services.

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