Interdisciplinary care at UT Health San Antonio: Eye care and occupational therapy

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The interdisciplinary approach to care is not as common in the ophthalmology field as one might think. The Lions Low Vision Center of Texas, part of UT Health Physicians, is the only eye care center in San Antonio utilizing an interdisciplinary team, with ophthalmologists, optometrists, and surprisingly, occupational therapists working together to bring the best care to their patients.

Melva P. Andrews, OTR, an occupational therapist (OT) who works at the center, said that research indicates interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary professional interventions can decrease the effects of low vision in the daily lives of individuals.

For many patients, Andrews said, vision problems can adversely affect many daily activities. And those patients probably don’t think of the importance or impact an occupational therapist can have on their treatment. Andrews said her focus is to enable people to resume participation in activities that matter to them.

“One hundred percent of the patients I see are experiencing difficulty performing daily, meaningful activities due to a visual impairment,” she said. “Between the medical doctors monitoring the eye condition and the low vision optometrist assessing and maximizing the vision that remains, the OT can provide interventions that take into account implementing compensatory strategies.”

These strategies include instructing patients on the use of low vision devices, instructing them on learning new visual skills and recommending environmental modifications to optimize safety and participation.

Every day is different, but Andrews’ days mostly consist of performing low vision evaluations, establishing patient treatment plans and initiating interventions. On the days she is not in the clinic, she’s teaching students as an adjunct faculty member in the UT Health San Antonio Department of Occupational Therapy. Her focus is teaching low vision rehabilitation to occupational therapy and physical therapy students.

Andrews and her team help individuals of all ages. There was an  80-year-old woman who lived alone and needed to sell her home online. Through Andrews’ help, she was able to learn how to use accessibility features on her computer, including stick-on high contrast letters that could be applied to her keyboard, helping her succeed in the online home sale process.

In another case, Andrews treated a 13-year-old boy with visual impairment in addition to autism. His mother felt he was having more difficulty in school due to his vision. During his OT evaluation, Andrews recommended an iPad since school assignments could be accessed virtually and accessibility features included in the iPad could be used to help him with his classwork. Through a grant from the Lions Foundation the young patient qualified for an iPad and one was provided to him. His mother reached out to say that this was a life-saver, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She proudly shared that he is now excelling in his classes.

Andrews is making an impact on these patients and so many that choose Lions Low Vision Center of Texas, showing how interdisciplinary care, even as unexpected as vision care with occupational therapy, is making lives better.

If you would like more information on the Lions Low Vision Center, please visit: https://www.uthscsa.edu/patient-care/physicians/location/Lions-Low-Vision-Center-of-Texas.



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