Frequently Asked Questions
What's involved in having my eyes examined?
The first step to having your eyes examined is to make an appointment, either by telephone (9663 2729), email (see contact us) or by dropping into the practice at 14 Collins Street. Our section on comprehensive eye examinations details the procedures that are typically conducted in an initial consultation and which usually include taking photos of the retina at the back of the eye and an initial or screening scan that enables us to view all the layers of the retina in cross-section and in 3D.
How much do you charge for an eye examination?
Our fee for a standard initial comprehensive eye examination is $88.70 - this consultation usually takes 30 to 40 minutes and routinely includes digital retinal photography and a screening scan with optical coherence tomography. In many other practices these procedures would attract additional fees. By comparison, Optometry Australia recommends a fee of $110 for an initial consultation, not including these procedures.
Sometimes in the course of an examination it becomes evident to the optometrist that additional procedures need to be conducted, either on that day or at a subsequent appointment. Examples include the performing of corneal topography where keratoconus is suspected; or of more detailed optical coherence tomography for diabetic patients, or where there has been a sudden reduction or loss of vision. Fees for these procedures are billed in addition to the consultation fee. For more comprehensive descriptions and explanations of these items, see our schedule of fees.
Do you Bulk-bill? What does Medicare pay?
From the start of 2015 a number of important changes to benefits paid for optometric services introduced by the federal government took effect. As a consequence of this we were forced to also change our billing and claiming procedures; for pensioners, veterans, and healthcare and concession card holders, however, we will continue to bulk bill consultations (but not procedural fees) to Medicare.
For non-concessional patients, instead of bulk-billing we have made the transition to Medicare's Easyclaim system, which enables us to submit your claim to Medicare on the spot at our reception desk. If you have previously registered your banking details with Medicare, you will receive a rebate benefit to your nominated bank account almost immediately; if not, you will receive a benefit cheque in the mail. You may have experienced exactly this same system previously at your GP's as it is used extensively by them.
Unlike bilk-billing, there will usually be a gap between the fee you pay us and the rebate benefit you receive from Medicare. The benefit will usually be either $56.80 or $28.45, depending on circumstances such as the time since you last claimed for an initial consultation. Medicare does not pay benefits for specialised additional procedures conducted in the course of your consultation that are charged for separately.
What about fees for contact lens consultations?
Some contact lens consultations attract a Medicare rebate, especially those relating to patients with high or unusual prescriptions, but these tend to be in the minority. When fitting contact lenses for the first time, or re-fitting you with new, different lenses, sometimes a bulk fee will be charged and our optometrists will explain this and what it covers prior to commencing the fitting process. Sometimes this fee will be split up into separate components that added together equal the bulk fee. Again for more detail you can refer to our schedule of fees.
Do I need an appointment to be seen at Collins Street Optometrists?
Although there are occasions when it is possible to simply walk in to the practice and be seen immediately (and we will always do our best to accommodate you) it is advisable to make an appointment. Usually there are appointments available within a day or two's notice. If you think you have an issue that requires immediate or emergency attention, please contact our reception staff who will liaise with the optometrists to ensure you are seen as soon as possible.
Do I need a referral to be seen at Collins Street Optometrists?
You do not need a referral to be seen at Collins Street Optometrists or to be eligible for a Medicare rebate. If, however, you have been referred to Collins Street Optometrists for a specialist scans or services such as dry eye, keratoconus, or orthokeratology, or for co-management of eye disease, it is usual for the referring practitioner to provide a referral letter.
The main purpose in having a referral letter is to help us understand your history (but it is generally not required for claiming Medicare benefits). If your GP, optometrist or medical specialist has advised you to see us, it is important to have their details handy so we can write them a report. We may also wish to contact your GP should we see eye signs of general body (systemic) disease, or if we refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon).
Can I claim my private health insurance through you? What does private health insurance cover?
Our HICAPS terminal enables us to directly claim benefits from your private health fund for spectacles and contact lenses, provided you have extras cover and bring in your private health fund card. This all happens hassle free, on the spot. Typically the fund pays the benefits directly to us, and you only need pay any gap remaining.
Private health cover only covers appliances such as spectacles and contact lenses, and does not cover gaps in consultation fees from Medicare or procedural consultation fees. Generally private health cover benefits are payable every calendar year (sometimes every financial year for a small number of funds).
How often should I have my eyes examined?
We normally recommend that you have the health of your eyes reviewed every two years. If, however, you are at higher risk of developing diseases such as glaucoma or macular degeneration we may recommend more frequent visits. Even if you think your vision hasn't changed or if you don't need spectacles, it is still important to undergo an examination every two years to ensure that your eyes are healthy. If you are over 65 years of age an annual eye examination is highly recommended.
What if I want to have my glasses made up elsewhere?
There is no compulsion for you to have your glasses made up with us and you are free to take a copy of your prescription any time, provided it is current (ie within two years of your last prescription check). Having said this, our philosophy of eyecare is that best results are usually achieved when glasses are prescribed and made up at the same place. This is in your best interests as there is better communication between the prescribing optometrist and the optical dispenser, and there is also no question of split responsibility between prescriber and dispenser.
Will drops be used at my visit?
In most cases drops will not need to be used at your initial consultation. The only drops that have any significant effect on your vision are what we call mydriatics, which dilate the pupil of your eye for two to three hours. These are used to gain a better view of the inside of the eye, but may cause some blur and sensitivity to glare. If we use dilating drops we normally recommend that you not drive for the next few hours until vision recovers.
We will normally advise you in advance if we think we need to dilate your pupils, although in some cases it may be important that we use the dilating drops on the day of your visit. Examples of this include if there is a sudden unexplained loss of vision, or if we suspect you have suffered a retinal tear or detachment. If it is not urgent that we dilate your pupils on the day we will offer you the option of returning to do so on a day that is more convenient for you.
What happens if I have eye disease?
One of our most important roles is to thoroughly examine you for eye disease and we take very seriously this responsibility that is well established in law. In some circumstances, especially those related to minor infections and inflammation of the front of the eye, we may provide you with a prescription for eye drops such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory steroid drops. If you have dry eye disease you may be treated in our dry eye clinic.
Should we have any concerns that you have more serious eye disease we may refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) who specialises in the relevant disease area. Sometimes we will monitor the condition for a period of time before referring and in some cases we will co-manage your eye disease with the ophthalmologist. If we refer you to an ophthalmologist, our letter serves as a referral document for health insurance purposes and you do not need to obtain a referral from your GP; normally we will copy your GP in on the referral letter.
What information do I need to provide to the optometrist and why do I need to fill in a questionnaire before my examination?
Some of the questions we ask when we first see you (and from time to time thereafter) relate to sensitive information, including things such as the medications you are taking for your general health and the sorts of visual tasks you do. This information will remain confidential and is critical in providing you with the best standard of eyecare and ensuring that we do not overlook any systemic health issues.
For example information on general health and medications allows us to inform your GP whether or not there are any eye signs of general systemic disease. Questions about your visual tasks assist us in advising you as to which lens designs will best suit your needs.
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