NYC Health + Hospitals and SUNY College of Optometry today announced a new partnership that will enhance vision services for patients at four NYC Health + Hospitals facilities. This effort will help to improve patient outcomes, reduce health disparities, and advance population health. Early detection of eye and vision problems can lead to better learning outcomes for school-age children, increased work productivity for adults, and help reveal presence of undetected chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. The partnership consolidates existing SUNY Optometry agreements, and it will help expedite hiring of additional optometrists through SUNY College of Optometry to practice at NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull and NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, East New York, Gouverneur, and Vanderbilt. The timeline for hiring new optometrists, previously between six and eight months, will be cut in less than half. Other NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health sites will be able to use the contract as needed. The value of the contract is up to $12 million over five years.

“At NYC Health + Hospitals, we’re building and strengthening partnerships that further enable us to improve access to care,” said Vice President of Ambulatory Care at NYC Health + Hospitals Ted Long, MD, MHS. “We’re happy to extend our long-lasting partnership with SUNY College of Optometry to ensure New Yorkers receive important eye and vision care to help prevent vision loss and help reveal other undetected chronic diseases.”

“As health care providers, we must underscore the importance of eye and vision care within public health. This groundbreaking partnership enhances accessibility for patients across New York City and addresses several barriers to improving population health,” said Director of Health Care Development at SUNY College of Optometry Dr. Richard Soden. “We’ve learned a great deal about the needs of our communities over our last two decades of work with NYC Health + Hospitals, and we believe this partnership will have an even greater impact on improving the health of patients across all five boroughs.”

“This partnership allows us to advance eye and vision care throughout the five boroughs while also creating new opportunities for our doctors, researchers, optometry students and residents,” said SUNY Optometry President Dr. David Heath. “We are proud to be a part of the solution in overcoming healthcare disparities, improving population health and ensuring New Yorkers in every community have access to high quality care.”

The new agreement will enable NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull and NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, East New York, Gouverneur, and Vanderbilt to expedite the hiring of additional SUNY optometrists. Before this agreement, the recruitment process would begin with SUNY after a need for an optometrist was reported by NYC Health + Hospitals. Once a candidate was interviewed by the facility and there was mutual consent for hiring, the negotiation process would begin consuming most of the process’ timeline. Instead of creating a new contract for each new optometrist, this master agreement will now only require an addendum to be included. It previously took six to eight months to recruit a new optometrist to one of these facilities; however, with this new partnership, the process will now be cut in less than half.

With the new partnership, SUNY College of Optometry builds upon a greater than 20-year relationship, which already includes providing eye care and vision services at five of the more than 70 NYC Health + Hospitals patient care sites. More than 60 optometry students rotate through these locations annually advancing their skills and learning through patient interaction.

“NYC Health + Hospitals plays a vital role in serving thousands of people each year with high quality care. I congratulate NYC Health + Hospitals on this new partnership with SUNY to hire more optometrists who can provide those most in need of urgent attention,” said State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, chairwoman of the NYS Senate’s Higher Education Committee. “Optometrists are trained to detect problems early, preventing debilitating disease. As a result, everyone, from children to older adults will benefit.”

“More optometrists mean more access to care for more patients,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “This partnership between NYC Health + Hospitals and the SUNY College of Optometry will also benefit graduates as they enter the job market. It’s great that NYC Health + Hospitals and SUNY are expanding their relationship with this important initiative.”

There are currently a total of 16 optometrists at NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull and NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, East New York, Gouverneur, and Vanderbilt that are affiliated with SUNY College of Optometry. NYC Health + Hospitals sees approximately 8,000 unique optometry patients annually. According to industry standards, most optometrists see approximately 2,500 patient visits per year, which includes new patients, established patients and patients returning for follow up care.

The World Health Organization recently issued a report on vision, which found that more than 1 billion people worldwide are living with vision impairment, because they do not get the care they need for conditions such as short and far sightedness, glaucoma, and cataracts. The report found that ageing populations, changing lifestyles and limited access to eye care are among the main drivers of the rising numbers of people living with vision impairment.