Member Spotlight: Mila Ioussifova, OD
With the proliferation of screens at work and at home, many eye care patients suffer from dry eye. But the most common treatments, such as drugstore eye drops, offer only short-term relief. Dr. Mila Ioussifova at South Waterfront Eye Care in Portland, Oregon, felt it was necessary to go the extra mile for patients by specializing in dry eye diagnosis and treatment.
“Just like other doctors, I would see patients suffering from dry eye on a daily basis,” Dr. Ioussifova explains. “I saw the need to help these patients and recognized that at home treatments, such as warm compresses, fish oil and drops, may not be enough for some of these patients.”
“Dry eye disease is a multi-factorial problem,” she says. “Therefore, it is important to find the cause of dry eye for each patient, as the treatment or recommendation may vary from patient to patient.”
“Once I started to really learn and pay attention to the causes of dry eye, I saw the need to have a variety of in-office treatments,” Dr. Ioussifova says. “Lipiflow is great for one condition, while another treatment or a combination of treatments, such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), BlephEx or Radio Frequency, are more helpful for other conditions.”
“It is obvious that dry eye disease is a growing problem in our patient population” Dr. Ioussifova explains.
“Although it may be challenging at times, providing comprehensive dry eye services gives us an opportunity to help these patients who really suffer and we can significantly improve their quality of life. I find this very rewarding!”
Education and Information-Sharing Are Key
Dr. Ioussifova says her practice, which has one other doctor and six staff members, grew into the specialty “organically.”
“It began with a lot of self-educating, reading scientific research (DEWS II) and anything I could find on dry eye, then eventually going through the Dry Eye University conference,” Dr. Ioussifova says. She advises doctors who are interested in building their own dry eye specialty practice to attend as many conferences and seminars as possible, especially the Dry Eye Access and Dry Eye University programs.
Dry Eye Access gives members a chance to share information and best practices with other doctors from around the country, she notes. “Although, we were already using many tools for dry eye management in our practice, we were able to fine-tune or modify our protocols after attending,” Dr. Ioussifova says. “For example, we realized we were undercharging for certain procedures after speaking with other doctors.”
“Dry Eye Access is a great place to start, as adding a dry eye specialty could be overwhelming,” Dr. Ioussifova says.
Dr. Ioussifova says her focus on dry eye treatments has been financially successful, bringing in an additional stream of revenue to the practice.
“A lot of these treatments are medical visits. Dry eye patients are seen five to six times a year for an hour-long visit, versus the typical VSP patient, who comes in once a year for a 20-minute visit,” she explains.
Most of the appointment is spent educating patients on the condition and treatment, since dry eye is really a chronic disease, Dr. Ioussifova says.
“My favorite thing is when patients say; ‘I don’t think about my eyes anymore, I feel like I’m in my 20s again!’ That’s the goal — to bring healing to their eyes,” Dr. Ioussifova says.
The time and energy spent on diagnosing and helping patients successfully treat their condition is well worth it, she explains.