The Cleveland Clinic

A Visit to the Eye Doctor

Because of the value of sight, it is important to be proactive in your eye health. Taking a role in maintaining your sight and preventing its loss includes choosing a health-care provider best suited for your needs -- one that has the right training and experience, can give proper diagnosis and treatment, is informative, promotes the best possible outcome, and guides their care through genuine concern.

Getting started: How to choose an optometrist or ophthalmologist

  • Qualifications. Having a solid set of credentials is one quality indicator of a good health care provider. Making sure that the professional has the proper and adequate training to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease can help you decide which doctor will best serve your eye health needs. Both your optometrist, OD, and ophthalmologist, DO or MD, should be certified through an accredited medical institution and be licensed to practice through the respective state board of optometry or state medical board. Ophthalmologists should, in addition, have internship and residential experience. Certificates and licensures should be displayed in conspicuous areas. You may confirm their credentials through the appropriate state board prior to your visit.

  • Experience. Having experience is also a quality indicator of a health-care provider. An optometrist or ophthalmologist who has more experience will probably be more able to detect eye disease and diagnose disorders simply because they have seen more patients. The second benefit of visiting a health-care provider with experience is the reassurance that they have maintained a practice of optometry or ophthalmology. Consumers are unforgiving to malpractice and bad service.

    You may also want to know if your eye examiner participates in medical research or medical education. An eye health professional that participates in and is current with the latest research and education of their field is more knowledgeable about the latest techniques in diagnosing and treating eye disease and visual disorders.

  • Services offered. Choosing an eye health professional who is able to provide a wide range of services is beneficial, but you also should select your provider by what services you do need. One who provides fewer services may sometimes be able to provide more specialization with a service or certain diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts. You should examine your eye health needs to determine which health-care provider you should see.

  • Patient satisfaction. Making patients happy is very important. There is a clich about the word of mouth being faster and far more effective than any form of advertising. Knowing that patients have consumer loyalty to their health-care provider, but also encourage others to see their own doctor, is a very good indicator of quality.
Once you've seen your provider, determine if you are satisfied and comfortable with the outcome of your visit. You should be able to answer "yes" to questions like: Were you seen in a timely manner? Was the examiner thorough? Did he/she address all of your concerns and follow up with any possible complications or questions you had? Will you return? Will you recommend him/her to others?

What Will Happen Before, During, and After the Appointment?

If you currently wear glasses or contact lenses, bring them with you to your appointment.

Depending on the size and type of the office, you will more than likely be greeted by a receptionist or an optician. They will then take your name and ask you to fill out a sheet of information about your medical and eye-health history. Once your paperwork has been completed, you will be shown to the examining room where the doctor will perform tests of your vision and also check for disease.

After a thorough examination has been completed, you will be asked to wait until your prescription has been written. If you need vision correction, usually an optician will work with you to find the glasses or contact lenses that are best suited to you. At that time, you will make payment arrangements and set up your appointment for next year.