Building a Medi-Cal Eyecare Practice Interview

Janice Lau, OD

FirstSight Vision Services recently opened a freestanding clinic adjacent to North County Health Services in San Marcos, CA. This optometry clinic accepts Medi-Cal serving both children and adults helping to bridge a gap for an under served part of the population. Dr. Lau’s practice is located within this clinic. Most of the offices that employ FirstSight doctors are located inside WalMart/Sam’s stores so this is different.

We thought this new optometry clinic was an interesting concept so we interviewed Janice Lau, OD to learn more about building a Medi-Cal eyecare practice and providing eyecare to this sector of the community.

Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program and provides health insurance and long-term care coverage to 6.5 million low-income children, their parents, elderly, and disabled people in the state. It is often difficult for optical patients that have eye health problems to find a Medi-Cal provider.

Dr. Lau told us that the majority of her patients are Medi-Cal patients and many are referred by the adjacent health clinic. Although Medi-Cal does not cover eyewear she can provide a lot of services that are covered e.g. prescribe spectacle prescriptions, manage eye health problems such as dry eye and allergies. Dr. Lau says “We are very fortunate to have a retinal camera in the office to document findings on the retina, the optic nerve, and the macula”. She saw this type of practice as a new challenge and liked the idea of being able to help patients to receive regular thorough eye exams, (patients that may have not had them in the past.)

It is interesting to see an optical practice that is being built up from the medical side. There is really good synergy created from being in a medical complex rather than a retail area. Dr. Lau and her staff have networked with the primary care doctors at North County Health Services and with other doctors in the local area to increase awareness of the clinic. Most patients come as referrals from this networking and the building of relationships.

As FirstSight takes care of the billing and coding, Dr. Lau is able to concentrate on the patient care rather than the complications of billing and coding. She says; “FirstSight allows me to treat my office as my own practice. They provide for all of the necessary equipment and the support staff which allows me to concentrate on patient care”.

I like to explain to my patients about the tests that I conduct during the eye exam because I believe that patient education is the key to establishing a relationship with the patient. Through my recommendations during the exam process it helps patients understand the importance of an annual eye exam. “

More about Dr. Janice Lau:

Dr. Janice Lau began practicing optometry in 2006 after completing her training at the Southern California College of Optometry. Dr. Janice Lau also attended the University of San Diego for her undergraduate coursework studying biology. For the past five years, Dr. Lau has practiced in San Diego.

Another FirstSight OD, Dr. Joyce Medina inspired her to go on missions with OneSight and over the last three years she has provided eyecare to people in Paraguay, Mexico, and Thailand.

After completing this interview I have the opinion that FirstSight is providing a very much needed service to an underserved part of the population but in the meantime building a good optical business model.


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