OCULAR TELEHEALTH, WHICH delivers eyecare remotely through medical equipment and telecommunications technology, is a hot-button issue right now. The question of whether it can offer a viable alternative to an in-person comprehensive exam is being intensely debated. What’s driving its progress are rising health care expenses as compared to the lower costs and added convenience it offers to patients.
There are about 200 different telehealth models being run these days in the U.S. and abroad, says Vitor Pamplona, founder of EyeNetra, which enables its customers to build their own telehealth models. And they are all different and generally protective of their own way of doing business. “The beauty of the state of vision care today is that anyone can build their own fully functioning telehealth system, using state-of-the-art tools like EHR-enabled AI-based voice assistants, blockchain storage and crypto vision benefits all the way down to the most basic one-on-one patient coaching approaches,” Pamplona explains. “Software is cheap. Technology is cheap. The field is booming but in a very diverse and decentralized way.”
While some states, such as Indiana and Connecticut, prohibit ocular telehealth, the majority allow it. One of the fastest growing entrants is 20/20NOW, which has completed 78 installations of its Ocular Telehealth Solution and expects to complete 125 by year-end. “Optical retail has always embraced ocular telehealth,” says Chuck Scott, CEO of 20/20NOW. “We are now seeing a trend within private optometry to utilize ocular telehealth within their practice, primarily for practice expansion, revenue improvement and better work/life balance.”
Given an abundance of options, the challenge now facing ECPs is to decide which tools, if any, add value to their services.
Smart Vision Labs
SV One, a handheld, smartphone-based autorefractor.
(212) 796-6124, smartvisionlabs.com
Eye Exam (877) 506-0002, digitaloptometrics.com
D-EYE’s Smartphone-based Retinal Imaging System
(401) 473-6323, d-eyecare.com
Ocular Telehealth Solution
(844) 843-2020, for2020now.com
Tests called Functional Vision EyeQ, Brain Health EyeQ, Reading EyeQ and Sports Vision EyeQ.
(301) 979-7970, righteye.com
(617) 684-5680, eyenetra.com
Smart Ways To Use Teleoptometry Tools
Joseph Ianni, Swift Eyewear, Massena, NY
The option to find doctors locally was limited so we purchased hardware from DigitalOptometrics to provide eye exams. We book a 30-minute complete eye exam and the system can accommodate walk-ins too. It has proved to be an amazing solution and we’ve carried out hundreds of exams since we went live in January. Our technician carries out pre-tests and then we videoconference in a doctor who looks at the results and can control the phoropter remotely and then sends us a prescription electronically. Our patients love the seamless experience and they’re happy they don’t have to travel to see a doctor.
Brian Chou, OD, Revision Optometry San Diego, CA
These are interesting times as technology impacts the evolution of optometry. Many new forms of teleoptometry are startups and like all startups some will succeed and some will fail and some could even get their technology acquired. The alternative distributors of online glasses and contact lenses are focused on giving prescription renewals online. More ambitious technologies offer digital retinal imaging using AI to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. We used to think autorefractors were a threat and now we see optometrists embracing them in their practices to improve efficiency. 20/20NOW is an enterprising outfit that helps clinics and opticals by giving non-dilated eye exams to patients so they can get a prescription when the doctor is not present. Stanton Optical allows patients in all its offices to videoconference with a remote doctor. So, looking to the future, I do believe there’s an opportunity for ODs to use online screenings to drive patients to use their services.
Ericson Quintanilla, Greenleaf Optical Compton, CA
We use the SV One from Smart Vision Labs to get a prescription for patients who don’t have access to a doctor or the fee to see a doctor. For $40 we give them an eye exam and free readers. Letters from the device are transferred to my laptop, where I add comments and send an email to some doctors in New York. I normally get a prescription back from them within 10 minutes. The patient then buys their glasses and single vision lenses from us. I also work with an online insurance company, Patch, that allows me to use their vision benefits.