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Build VT referrals from OTs and PTs
By Thomas and Amee Lecoq
The process of network building is similar for most professionals in this category. We’ve found that in most cases, the referral relationship builds slowly, with lots of personal and professional communication as the other professional develops trust in the OD.
A productive place to start is with Occupational and Physical Therapists. Many work with head injury and stroke patients. Many of these patients recover movement and mobility quite well, but report to their therapist that they are often dizzy, disoriented, see double or see the world as "swimming." Such patients often find it impossible to go back to work or school. Stating this is one of the best ways to introduce what you do to an OT or PT. It is one of the most common issues, that the patient is not able to return to normal life because of what are thought to be intractable visual disturbances, including motion sickness, loss of balance, light sensitivity and double vision.
A growing number of articles in optometric journals address these problems, yet few physical therapists have read them. Identify the office(s) which provide physical or occupational therapy in your area. Web searches will provide this information.
Have an assistant call each practice and state that Dr. (You) wants to send an article on vision as an overlooked problem in physical therapy. Would the person on the phone mind providing the therapists names? (Have them spell the names, and specificy the gender). Then double check the address, zip code. Accurate data is important
Ask who is the primary person (owner, chief therapist).
Find, clip and copy an article on the subject.
* Highlight the main points in the article so the therapist will be sure to see them.
* (Have your staff duplicate your markings on additional copies.)
* Write a BRIEF cover letter stating that "this article deals with problems you may see in many of your patients. I thought you might find this interesting." State the main points in one or two paragraphs. Finally, state that since you work with patients with physical impairments, you would appreciate the opportunity to visit their office to learn more about what they are doing.
* Have your staff person print and send the letter.
Network with pediatricians?
Relationships with pediatricians seem like an obvious place to start when building a referral network. However, most optometrists report frustration in this effort ranging from negative feedback at an MD appointment, to hostile phone calls warning your patient therapy is a hoax.
Although a positive pediatrician/O.D. linkup is wonderful when it occurs, it is still rare. I do not believe it is an efficient use of time to pursue pediatricians as referral sources, but rather to take the opportunity if it presents itself. All that said, it is still a good idea to send a report to the pediatrician, but delay sending it until the patient has had significant improvement. If the MD contacts your patient with negative information, the parent will already know that therapy has helped and will say so. Sometimes the parent will ask, “why didn’t you refer me for vision therapy? It has worked wonders for Johnnie.
If you hear of a negative contact by a pediatrician, you can contact the MD and state that you are calling because one of your patients said something about a call, and that what you were told was said, you wanted to check because you cannot believe that another professional would say such things because the validity of therapy is very well established. You can then suggest that the two of you get together for lunch so you can bring the MD up to date on the current science regarding VT and brain plasticity. At the least offer and send a copy of “Fixing My Gaze” by neurology professor Susan Barry, PhD. A third of this book consists of footnotes on research supporting VT.
"Stay tuned" for the next installment in the series, "Building Your Professional Referral Network."
The multi-step process is covered in our new Essentials for Vision Therapy Success course. Read about it here.
To find out more about the More Patients Course, go to the courses page, or contact the Lecoqs at the numbers or email addresses below.
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Lecoq Practice Development
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