The Blue Light Opportunity for Optometry

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blue Light Concern

If you just came back from Vision Expo East, there’s a good chance you found yourself in a conversation or two about blue light. As eye care providers, we’re on the front line of this conversation, as we’re seeing blue light’s impact walk through our practice doors literally every day. Our patients (adults and kids alike) are complaining of headaches, dry, tired eyes, and blurry vision. Many of them have simply accepted the symptoms of digital eye strain as their new normal as a result of so much digital device use. However, this doesn’t have to be.

Digital devices continue to be more and more prevalent in all aspects of life. We’re living through a time in which blue light exposure is hitting unprecedented levels. This presents optometry with a tremendous opportunity to own the conversation as medical experts and educate patients and the public about the harm blue light can have on their eyes as well as the potential long-term health impacts. As optometrists, we can provide solutions to this problem that make a real difference in the lives of our patients, but also differentiate our practices and provide opportunity for it to thrive.

A new survey from VSP has revealed that by the time the average American child reaches age 17, their eyes will have spent the equivalent of nearly six years looking at digital devices. Yet, the survey also found that the majority of parents are mostly unaware of blue light and its impact on vision. This topic needs to be a part of the exam conversation. Screen time has become such a normal part of our lives, that it can go unnoticed by patients. Simply asking how many hours a day a patient spends on their devices on the patient history forms provides you with the opportunity to have the blue light conversation and recommend solutions that curb symptoms of digital eye strain.

When it comes to talking about light protective lenses, especially with parents, I like to talk about it as safety eyewear. Parents wouldn’t want their child to work in a woodshop without protective eyewear, so why should they let their children spend hours a day in front of screens without protection? Even a patient (child or adult) who doesn’t need refractive correction can benefit from a plano lens with a coating that absorbs and reflects blue light.

The blue light story is not going away. Researchers continue to study the impact of long-term, cumulative blue light exposure on our eyes, including possible vision loss. As technology like virtual reality headsets become more mainstream, screens will be at closer proximity to our eyes than ever before. In a sense, we’re in the early days of the blue light story. The opportunity for our profession is right in front of us.

Dr. Gary Morgan is a VSP provider who practices at Eye Tech Associates in Phoenix, Arizona. Follow his blog series on blue light, AMD prevention, and the impacts of technology on vision and health.


Technological Improvements That Will Help Contribute to the Patient Experience

Monday, April 18, 2016

Technology has had a lasting impact on a significant number of industries in the last few decades. There is no question that optometry is one of them.

While new technologies can be a benefit for our practices, it’s a constant challenge to find the next tool that your practice needs, while at the same time justifying the costs and challenges of implementing new technology.

The biggest thing new technologies have done is change the patients’ expectations of what their experience will be. In today’s optometric world, there are so many new options when looking to replace deteriorating equipment or trying to decide on the next advancement of clinical tools. With technology contributing to our patients’ expectations of the “next generation” versions happening multiple times per year, we’re getting to a point where patients are expecting the “latest and greatest” every office visit. Fortunately, this can be addressed by covering all areas of a practice, from the front desk to the exam room, and all the way to the optical dispensary.

A few items that are starting to become common are things like utilizing a smart phone platform to perform auto refractions or retinal/anterior segment imaging. These smaller devices can reduce “equipment anxiety” which can make the patient feel more comfortable during the examination.

There are new optical display technologies that use LED lighting and programmable chips to display frames in your office that a patient may have picked out online before they arrived at your office. This can encourage the “click-to-brick” buyer’s mentality a lot of Millennials have; it can also reduce the confusion that patients encounter when looking at all of the frames displayed in a typical dispensary.

There are new EHRs that utilize an iPad, which increases face-to-face communication time between doctor and patient. Another new idea I saw recently that was intriguing was a practice that created an in office program similar to, in which they brought in a fashionable, price-conscience frame line. The practice then negotiated a great deal on lens blanks and utilized the fashionable frames with the low-cost lenses to create a “swap anytime” single vision frame and lens package for a monthly fee. These are just a few of all of the never ending options that are now being implemented in optometric practices.

Not all technology can be looked at as an immediate profit center for your practice. Some technology tools you implement will create billable fees in the long term, say an upgraded OCT or Retinal Camera, while other tools implemented might strictly be for the patients’ convenience or the “wow” factor that can’t immediately be monetized but will show value through positive patient perception and retention.

As I see it, at the end of the day, you need to make technological improvements within your practice that will help contribute to the entire patient experience. Your patients expect it in today’s world and when you commit to providing the highest quality of care combined with a thoughtful use of new technology, you create a competitive advantage for your practice.

What technology did you see at Vision Expo East that could help your practice more efficiently help patients?

Optometry, Technology and Patient Health

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dr. Matthew AlpertAs Chairman of Optometric Innovation for VSP Global, I feel we are in the midst of truly exciting times for our industry. A decade ago there wouldn’t have been a need for this kind of role. But over the past few years, having a dedicated focus on innovation and emerging technology in our field is critical.

I categorize my role in three distinct ways:

• evaluating how to leverage technology for the underserved, both within the U.S. and abroad;
• advising VSP on how new technologies can increase efficiency and the quality of patient care from a provider’s perspective; and
• gaining an understanding of how emerging technology can positively impact the profession of optometry as whole.

Just over two years ago, Google Glass made its debut. One of the world’s most disruptive and aggressive companies was making an entry into the optical industry. Instead of trying to hold them back, I represented VSP to ensure that optometry had a seat at the table by working closely with Google to create a feedback loop with ODs in the field, develop a training program so ODs were armed with the right information, and then connected consumers to those ODs. While Google Glass proved to be ahead of its time, the opportunity to influence early on was key to ensure that optometry played a role that was meaningful and relevant to the consumer experience.

More recently I traveled back to Soweto, South Africa, as well as traveled to four clinics in Belize to introduce and evaluate integrating EyeNetra technology into current efforts to increase access to eye health services. The initial reaction to the technology was no different in these parts of the world than it is here in the U.S. There can be an inherent fear of technology disrupting the model of optometry that is in place today – regardless if you are practicing in Soweto, Belize or Woodland Hills, Calif., where I practice.

However, once these optometrists had a chance to learn about this emerging technology and evaluate it as a tool to help them increase access to vision correction, they saw how it could be adapted to them versus needing to adapt to it.

In addition to leveraging and testing new tools to increase access to eye care abroad, I’ve also brought emerging technology into my practice. I want to obtain a true feel for the patient experience, which is the litmus test for if the technology can be successful. I do this because it becomes a win for patients (new technology elevates the patient experience), my practice (we‘re viewed as being technologically savvy), and for me personally (patients are more likely to follow advice if they have the perception of the highest level of care). It also stimulates conversation and allows me to provide meaningful feedback.

VSP Global’s partnership with Vizzario is another example of obtaining a seat at the table early on in the development process of new, emerging technology to keep optometry relevant. As a practitioner, I’m excited about the potential of this technology. At its core, Vizzario operates as a sensory data exchange platform, which means it’s capable in taking in multiple data sets — from things like visual performance to heart rate — and then uses machine learning to analyze that data and provide context.

The opportunity to help track multiple patient data sets will allow me to become an active participant in my patients’ overall health and wellness, thereby increasing the relevancy and connectivity of optometry to their everyday lives. It also uncovers new potential revenue streams as I’m able to add additional layers to personalize the patient experience.

As I see it, this is truly an exciting time for optometry. I encourage you to have an open mind about emerging technology and think about how it can elevate the patient experience, enhance the current delivery system, and benefit our profession.

If you are going to Vision Expo East, check out what’s new: Ask yourself questions like, “Will this resonate with my patients? Is this relevant for my practice? Is this relevant to our profession?” Even if the answer is a no today, it will provide you with a good idea of where technology is moving within the industry.