PSA to patients: Pink eye is not an emergency.

study published in Ophthalmology last week reviewed over 370,000 eye related emergency room visits from over a 14 year period.

The results?  Brace yourself.
One in four eye related emergency room visits were not actual emergencies.  And the main non-emergency diagnoses were blepharitis, chalazion, and pink eye.

What’s the theory for so many non-emergency eye visits?
The authors state a “lack of eye specialists in low-income areas, and the inability of younger and lower-income people to take time off from work for an eye appointment, could lead them to seek care in an ER at night or on weekends”.

How could we fix this issue?
The authors suggest that one way is for insurers to incentivize primary care providers and eye specialists to increase the availability of after-hours appointments.  Other ideas include telemedicine appointments where patients can be examined remotely or adding insurance coverage for regular eye exams so patients can establish themselves with a regular provider as these patients are less likely to seek ER care.

Jaclyn Garlich
Dr. Garlich graduated from the New England College of Optometry in 2010 and completed a residency in primary care and ocular disease at the St. Louis VA. In 2013, she developed an optometry clinical reference mobile app available in the iTunes store. In 2016, she founded 20/20 Glance, a weekly optometry newsletter that gives a rundown on clinically relevant optometry news in an easy to digest format.

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