Vision rehabilitation board certification review course can assist with patient care

May 7, 2012

With the nation’s older adult population rapidly increasing, vision rehabilitation ought to be one of optometry’s fastest growing fields, according to Mark Wilkinson, O.D., clinical professor of ophthalmology and director of the Vision Rehabilitation Service at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine.

By 2030, the number of Americans over age 60 is expected to double. In addition, health conditions commonly considered to be risk factors for vision loss are also on the increase. Some 5.3 million Americans have diabetes. The nation’s black and Hispanic populations – both prone to glaucoma – continue to grow.

Yet AOA Scope of Practice Surveys indicate only about one-third of practices offer any vision rehabilitation services at all, let alone a comprehensive range of such services.

Practitioners commonly fear that vision rehabilitation will be too time-consuming and troublesome or will require specialized skills and equipment their practices cannot afford to offer, Dr. Wilkinson notes.

For that reason, Dr. Wilkinson’s Vision Rehabilitation Board Certification Review Course provides the busy, practicing optometrist a simple, step-by-step approach that can be used to make the diagnosis and care of low vision problems practical in almost any optometric office.

Like other EyeLearn™ offerings, the course was developed, in part, to provide a helpful refresher for optometrists who are preparing to take American Board of Optometry (ABO) board certification examinations.

However, the course also “will allow you to provide even better care for your patients, either directly or by referral to a colleague who provides vision rehabilitation care,” Dr. Wilkinson emphasizes in the course’s opening segment.

“It is important to remember that vision rehabilitation is part of the continuum of care that we provide to our patients throughout their lives,” Dr. Wilkinson adds.

Rehabilitation is used when a disease or disorder (in the case of vision, conditions such as cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, eye injury, etc.) results in an impairment (i.e., decreased visual acuity, visual field loss, reduced binocularity, or color perception problems) that, if left untreated, can lead to a disability (the loss of ability to perform desired or necessary functions).

The objective of vision rehabilitation is to enable the patient to overcome their visual disability with the use of prescriptive devices and rehabilitative training to maximize the use of the remaining vision and/or provide alternate ways to accomplish needed and desired activities, Dr. Wilkinson noted.

Therefore, vision rehabilitation requires practitioners to accurately determine not just the pathology underlying a vision problem but the specific needs and goals of the patient, Dr. Wilkinson said.

This entails a number of extra steps not required in most forms of eye and vision care, Dr. Wilkinson acknowledges. However, the EyeLearn™ Vision Rehabilitation course will in just two hours provide a detailed review of key elements of a rehabilitation program that any practitioner can utilize, he says.

New “high-tech” electronic low vision devices – including many using advanced cell phone or digital processing technology – allow optometrists to now offer individuals who are visually impaired a wide range of corrective options that are increasingly portable, affordable, appropriate for patients with physicals disabilities, and above all, easy to use and view, Dr. Wilkinson notes.

Vision rehabilitation today emphasizes a care team – generally including the patient’s general practice medical doctor, occupational therapist, orientation and mobility specialist and other professionals – it can provide an optometrist an important networking opportunity at a time when new care models such as medical homes and accountable care organizations are encouraging optometric involvement in health care teams, Dr. Wilkinson notes.

Low vision devices are often not covered under health care plans, Dr. Wilkinson acknowledges. However, many practitioners are looking toward non-covered products and services as a hedge against stagnant third-party reimbursement levels, he notes.

While low vision testing can in some cases require specialized equipment, most can be accomplished with the standard instrumentation found in an optometrist’s practice and special eye charts or card sets – such as the Feinbloom visual acuity charts – that are neither expensive nor difficult to use, Dr. Wilkinson notes during the course.

However, the best reason for practitioners to pursue vision rehabilitation is the satisfaction it can provide, according to Dr. Wilkinson.

“The old days of an elderly person living at home with family and not hearing or seeing so well are over. Today, people are continuing to live active lives longer,” Dr. Wilkinson observed.

“The practitioner who can assist those who suffer vision loss, which cannot be corrected with conventional lenses, and help them continue to live happy and productive lives will be a valued, sought-after member of a community – and not just among older adults and their families, but among other health care practitioners,” he said.

The course has so far drawn a four-star rating from online students.

Like all EyeLearn™ courses, the Vision Rehabilitation Board Certification Review Course is presented in a series of interactive learning modules that allow practitioners to log on and access the learning materials whenever they are ready.

Modules range in length from a mere five minutes to just over a half hour. The entire course can be completed in just under two hours.

The electronic format allows those taking the course to pause at any point and return to the course later. They can immediately repeat a unit if they do not adequately understand the material covered.

Each unit comes with one or more self-assessment quizzes that appear periodically. Course handouts are provided on the EyeLearn™ website. Course takers can even follow the speaker word-for-word using course transcripts that are also provided on the site.

In addition to interactive learning modules, practitioners can easily access supplemental resources such as AOA Optometric Clinical Practice Guidelines and articles from Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association as well as a range of pre-recorded audio or video lectures.

A Continuing Education (CE) Finder feature allows optometrists to find appropriate classroom continuing education programs on vision rehabilitation and related subjects, offered by state optometric associations, regional optometric organizations, and the AOA.

The EyeLearn™ online education portal is an exclusive AOA member benefit. AOA members can take courses and access materials free of charge.

The optometric education portal can be accessed at www.aoa.org/eyelearn.

EyeLearn™ Vision Rehabilitation Board Certification Review Course (120 minutes)

User rating: 4 Stars

Part 1- Vision Rehabilitation: Continuum of Care (12 minutes)

Part 2- Structured Vision Rehabilitation Exam (9 minutes)

Part 3- Types of Visual Impairments (17 minutes)

Part 4- Vision Rehabilitation Testing Techniques (32 minutes)

Part 5- Principles of Magnification (6 minutes)

Part 6- Optical Magnification, Filters, and Non-Optical Devices (23 minutes)

Part 7- Electronic Magnification Devices (7 minutes)

Part 8- Patient Education (10 minutes)

Part 9- Community Support Services (4 minutes)

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