“I just want to thank you for saving my daughter’s life,” says the voicemail from the mother to the American Optometric Association. The Arizona woman described how a retinoblastoma was discovered in her daughter’s eye; the discovery came about after she was examined as part of InfantSEE, a program managed by Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation, which provides resources for 6 to 12-month-olds to receive comprehensive vision assessments free of charge.
Within a week, the eye was removed, and the cancer was contained. Longtime supporter of the InfantSEE and current member of the AOA InfantSEE and children’s vision committee, Glen Steele, OD, FCOVD, FAAO, vividly remembers the day he first heard this voicemail more than a decade ago.
Stories like this one, where intervention initiated as a result of an InfantSEE examination has changed the lives of individuals, are numerous.
In addition to helping serve the youngest patients in one’s community, InfantSEE also offers a way for practices to reach new patients. Dr. Steele, who is professor emeritus for the Southern College of Optometry, in Memphis, Tenn., adds that adopting InfantSEE “is a way to go into the community and establish your footprint. The patient base always grows and gets older with you.” Parents who see the careful attention their child receives during an InfantSEE test are also more likely to bring other family members to a practice as well, he adds.
With benefits to both community and practice, Dr. Steele and Jennifer Zolman, OD, owner and CEO of Draisin Vision Group, Charleston, S.C., and Chair of the American Optometric Association’s InfantSEE and Children’s Vision Committee, offer the tips below for how to best implement InfantSEE in a practice.
Spread the word
Once your practice has signed up for InfantSEE (which can be done at bit.ly/infnatseesignup), make sure you get the word out.
Dr. Zolman, OD, built a portion of her practice base from embracing the InfantSEE program. As a new member of a large practice, Dr. Zolman describes networking with pediatric offices to spread the word about her services, dropping new parent packets at hospitals, stopping in on children’s groups and day cares, “any of those touchpoints where you’re going to be able to reach the parent,” she says.
Also, make sure your staff knows about the program so they can tell patients, as well.
“In our office, everyone knows about InfantSEE,” Dr. Zolman says. “Make sure that everybody — from those answering the phone to those checking in, to pretesters — can have that conversation about InfantSEE with parents.”
Determine the best schedule
Decide the best day for your practice to see InfantSEE patients, says Dr. Zolman, and then make sure the practice’s schedulers know, so they can share that information with parents.
Dr. Zolman describes how doctors will want the baby to be fresh and happy, so her staff will advise a parent scheduling the visit to select a time, perhaps first thing in the morning, after a nap, or after a feeding. The staff should also let the parent know that they may bring items to comfort their child, if desired and needed.
Provide parent education
Dr. Zolman says she is sure to discuss the difference between an
InfantSEE vision exam and screenings administered at school and pediatric offices.
She says she also questions parents about lifestyle items that can affect vision and uses this as an opportunity to continue vision health discussions. For example, “Does your child use any digital devices and if so, how and for how long?”
Finally, Dr. Zolman recommends sending a “parent packet” home with the patient. At her office, this contains important information on infant vision issues and how they might manifest in the first few months of life, as well as a simulator card of what a baby sees, eye tracking cards, and games parents can play with their children to help with vision.
Schedule future appointments
Once the InfantSEE tests are completed, ask parents about scheduling future appointments, recommends Dr. Steele. He says he likes to see his InfantSEE patients annually and uses the end of an InfantSEE test to discuss with parents the significant changes that happen in a child’s vision in that time, such as accommodation errors, esotropia, and strabismus.
An example script from Dr. Steele: “At 18 months, I want you to be looking and following along with your finger when you’re reading to your child. Establish the eye movements, so your baby is prepared for those types of things three to four years later.”
Dr. Zolman says she also recommends scheduling a follow-up appointment for InfantSEE patients — before the parents leave the office, she likes to schedule an appointment for when the child turns 3, as this is recommended by the American Optometric Association.
A milestone in care
InfantSEE hit a milestone at the end of 2023, according to statistics released by the program. Since its creation in 2005, InfantSEE, which provides a resource for 6 to 12-month-olds to receive comprehensive vision assessments free of charge, has assessed 170,000 infants for possible vision problems. More information on InfantSEE can be found at www.infantsee.org. OM