The big facts COVID-19 has taught us about the future of the eye care profession

The coronavirus has flipped our lives on its head. It’s brought our country to a halt and will undoubtedly continue to change how we operate even as we release the quarantine constraints. We’ve learned about our country’s preparedness, or unpreparedness, during these times. We’ve learned that while the individual is expected to have operable savings and a cash flow of 3-6 months, privately owned companies across an array of industries are not able to operate this way and have been crippled by the halt of our economic growth. The mass layoffs in effort to conserve savings are proving how unprepared for this situation we really are. And the economic downturn may continue for an immeasurable amount of time.

I’m forever the optimist and I’m instead thinking of the benefits that a quarantine affords us. We get a chance to pause and reassess. I’m looking even closer at bank statements and reassessing recurring payments and their value. I’m taking inventory of our personal health, and that includes the check-ups that we have or haven’t gotten for the year. Once we exit this quarantine, I’m essentially pushing a reset button. Let’s think about how

With the exception of select practices and emergency patients, the Optometry field has stopped in the wake of this pandemic. The limitation of in-person visits as the only way to receive patient care has crippled the industry. The answer lies in Telemedicine.

In 2016, the AOA published a paper that alluded to the future of Optometry to drive increased revenues - “It’s estimated that the 198 million people who use vision correction devices receive just 94 million exams annually, equivalent to one exam every 25 months. This occurs even as ODs encourage most patients to have yearly eye exams. If ODs were to reduce the average interval between eye exams from 25 months to 18 months, ODs would perform an additional 34 million eye exams annually, a 39 percent increase.”

From our research we understand that buying glasses is a grudge purchase for customers. While important to their health, they see visiting the eye doctor as boring and stressful. By leaning into telemedicine solutions, eye care professionals can tackle two issues at once, increase patient flow in quantity and frequency while being prepared for any future pandemics.

Guidance from the AOA outlines the things to consider in a solution:

The American Optometric Association has published a position statement on Vision Telehealth Services and how these services should be utilized to benefit patient care. The position statement states that “(t)he AOA supports the use of eye and vision telehealth services provided by licensed eye doctors…and other appropriate, licensed professionals in certain instances,” when certain criteria are met. Among the criteria listed are these critical points:

  1. The standard of care provided to the patient must stay the same;

  2. Telehealth is not appropriate for establishing the doctor-patient relationship or for an initial diagnosis or other types of care where face-to-face interaction is indicated;

  3. Patients must be made aware of the limitation of telehealth services and should be given the option of in person care;

  4. Eye doctors must abide by state licensure laws and regulations when delivering telehealth services;

  5. At its current stage of development, telehealth is not capable of replacing all elements of an in-person comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor.

Overall the AOA’s view is that telehealth services can bring increased access to care for patients requiring consultation or a specialist's assessment.

But who offers the best solutions? Who can we trust? So far VIsibly, EyeNetra, SmartVision are solid/reputable technology, however they fall short of providing an end to end solution.

Whoever can solve the telemedicine approach in optometry will be a huge winner. Digiteyez proposes the first software solution for optometrists to streamline the eye exam process to their patients from the comfort of their homes. The Digiteyez solution comprises both objective (autorefractor) and subjective (phoropter) technologies on the same digital platform. For more details, sign up to become a Beta Tester, risk free.