Despite a slew of challenges, 2020 can still be the “year of vision” thanks to innovative Valley eye doctors.
Vision is easy to take for granted.
We open our eyes each morning and don’t fully appreciate the splendor of our surroundings, from the magnificent sunrise bursting from the darkness to the mundane beauty of a well-worn towel on the bathroom sink. But when something goes wrong – a worsening astigmatism, the onset of glaucoma, an eye injury – the preciousness of our eyesight is thrown into sharp focus. Whether you’re considering laser eye surgery or searching for a specialist for a pressing issue, the Valley’s vibrant ophthalmology and optometry community has a provider to fit your needs.
Due to the novel coronavirus, the word of the year seems to be “pivot.” As with everyone else, the medical community has had to recalibrate its care to ensure patient safety. “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some retina practices have adjusted their patient flow structures,” Dr. Rahul Reddy wrote in an article in the May/June 2020 issue of Retina Today. “At Associated Retina Consultants in Phoenix, for example, family members remain in their vehicles and patients never double back to the same hallway. Patients move in one direction for their entire visit, which maximizes efficiency and reduces the likelihood of patient-to-patient transmission of an infectious disease.” Reddy and his colleagues at Associated Retina Consultants (associatedretinaconsultants.com) treat all retinal conditions, including macular degeneration, torn retina, diabetic retinopathy, ocular tumors and uveitis. “We have designated an isolated exam room in our office for patients who present with an urgent need for care and have been identified as positive for COVID-19. We may keep this room for similar use in the future.”
Others have found digital health care to be an effective solution. “With COVID, we have been very adaptable at the development of telehealth,” says Dr. Kaila Osmotherly, associate dean of the Arizona College of Optometry and medical director of the Midwestern University Therapy Institute (mwuclinics.com), which specializes in rehabilitation and therapeutic care. “Many rehabilitation visits, such as for physical therapy, can be very well modified to a virtual environment to allow patients to continue their progress. We have support for patients who might feel intimidated at a virtual visit to help get those patients online.” Midwestern’s comprehensive approach, rooted in osteopathic medicine, has been crucial in addressing multiple aspects of care. “There has been an increase in mental health concerns, and our clinical psychology department has been an incredibly valuable resource for our community during this time.”
“The eye care field has always been a technologically centric science,” says Dr. Andrew Rabinowitz, lead physician at American Vision Partners with Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center (americanvisionpartners.com; goodeyes.com). “As technology has evolved, our ability to save sight by detecting and treating eye diseases before they cause significant compromise [has increased]. On the surgical side, we have pioneered corrective surgeries including cataract surgery and LASIK vision correction.”
The partners also treat conditions including macular degeneration and ocular complications of diabetes. “We have found that we can help adults of all age ranges live their fullest lives by providing surgical alternatives to glasses and contact lenses and by treating sight-threatening pathologies,” says Rabinowitz, who personally sub-specializes in glaucoma. “This is a condition which arises when the pressure within the eye becomes elevated. This elevation leads to damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is like a fiber-optic cable which connects the eye to the brain. The treatment options we offer patients include medications, laser surgeries and incisional surgeries.”
At Midwestern University, a full-scale virtual reality system called CAREN (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment) has helped patients immensely. “One of our physical therapy providers discusses that this is a nice ‘bridge’ for therapy where a patient can step beyond the standard therapy performed in a clinical setting and then move into this virtual setting prior to moving back into the real-world environment,” Osmotherly says. Its applications are seemingly endless. “If a patient has a sports injury, we can safely simulate that specific environment for rehabilitation training… The CAREN also offers an incredible volume of clinical data so we can precisely monitor and track a patient’s rehabilitation program.”
At practices/clinics like Associate Retina Consultants, Barnet Dulaney Perkins and Midwestern University Therapy Institute, patients reap the benefits of the experience, knowledge and care of multiple physicians. “We are developing a collaborative team care model where a patient with a condition such as a concussion will meet with our team of clinical experts from the different specialty areas to discuss specific rehabilitation goals,” Osmotherly says.
Indeed, while the Therapy Institute is the newest clinic on Midwestern’s campus (it opened this past March), it joins an established coterie of clinics, including a Dental Institute, Eye Institute, Multispecialty Clinic, Therapy Institute and Animal Health Clinics. All are open to the public.
“Our mission at Midwestern University is one of excellence in our academic instruction to our students and excellence in care for our patients,” Osmotherly continues. “One of the ways we aim to achieve this excellence is through our commitment to our One Health philosophy. One Health is the concept of collaboration between our different disciplines so we can provide the best care for each and every individual patient who is seen in our clinics.”