Summer 2015
Summer 2015

Emerging Technology in Optometry
We live in an era of technological innovation. Smart phones, 3D printing, and cutting edge ophthalmic instruments are all revolutionizing optometry. Some applications, such as EyeDock, have been embraced by the industry. Others, like the smart-phone based Blink, are causing more of a stir. Will there be a permanent role for this up-and-coming technology in optometry? How might the practice be affected, and what do you see remaining unchanged?

Arol Augsburger, OD

ICO President

When I was attending optometry classes at The Ohio State University, we learned optics by becoming experts on the slide rule. I marveled at the new and very expensive Hewlett-Packard calculators, which became available as I finished my optics education. Now, the technology available on my smart phone is far more robust than all the programs available on my HP. This is just one example of how technology has disrupted what we once thought was the only way to solve our optometry problems. There are many other examples:

  • Ophthalmic photography, which once meant taking and developing Kodak film pictures, now has been supplied by digital fundus cameras and OCT’s, and digital anterior seg cameras.
  • Retinoscopy has been supplanted by auto-refractors and aberrometers.
  • Tangent screens have been replaced by FDP and Visual Field Analyzers.
  • 5×7 note cards for patient records have been vastly improved with electronic medical records.

The question ‘Will technology change the practice of optometry?’ has already been answered. Just look at the way we practice optometry today compared to 45 years ago- and I fully expect the pace to increase. Embrace new technologies for the benefit of the patient, and for the efficiencies it provides optometrists in the care of their future patients.

Lou Lipschultz, OD ’86

Southland Eye Associates

New technology has a permanent role in our exam lanes and special testing rooms. Consider what we see today with an OCT versus the ophthalmoscopes we used so confidently in the past. I feel it is our duty to adapt to the ever-changing standard of care brought about by evolving technology.

New technology means faster and more accurate diagnosis, leading to faster access to appropriate treatment. Is there value in an app that provides utilities like those found in the EyeDock? My answer is yes. I’m not sure how often you do the Parks 3-step, but I do it infrequently enough that I really appreciated that little tool on EyeDock. There are practice management benefits as well. I am certain that I will not be able to navigate ICD-10 without my smart phone app!

Other technologies such as Blink may cause us to cringe, but is there a place for it? Maybe not here and now, but maybe Blink is a step toward an amazing tool we embrace in our not-so-distant future. Time will tell. One thing is for sure: disruptive technologies such as Blink make us think- and that’s not a bad thing.
What is unchanged is the need for patients to have the benefit of a face-to-face consultation with a doctor they trust. Collectively, technology allows us to present treatment plans with confidence, and helps to retain that trust our patients have in us as their doctors. We gain in the satisfaction of preserving and improving vision. Ultimately, this all results in happier, healthier patients, and the referrals we so greatly appreciate.

Todd M. Zarwell, OD ’99

Developer of EyeDock

I absolutely believe that there is a permanent role for technology in our practices. Nearly every industry has changed significantly in the last 10-15 years as far as how information is recorded and accessed, and optometry is no different. The advent of electronic medical records, connected diagnostic instruments, and online resources has tried to make us more productive, more efficient and, ultimately, better doctors.

However, as excited as I am about tech in the exam room, I also feel we have a long way to go. Sometimes our EMRs slow us down, sometimes our networked instruments fail, and sometimes websites don’t give us the answers to our questions as quickly as we need them. At times, it seems that our computers are pulling our attention away from our patient when, ideally, they should be helping us be more focused on the person in our chair.

A short while ago, Apple began one of their iPad commercials with this narration: ‘We believe technology is at its very best when it’s invisible- when you’re conscious only of what you’re doing, not the device you’re doing it with.’ I’m optimistic that one day, we will feel this way about the technology we’re using in our exam lanes. EMRs are only in their infancy, but as time passes, their interfaces will improve. They will accomplish tasks that currently require other resources, and someday, they’ll even anticipate our needs and provide us with information without our having to request it.

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