Technology and services that boosts access to patient care while keeping the doctor at the center of the eye exam experience—no matter where they are located.
By Noelle Tchang, OD
Feb. 7, 2024
The pandemic brought about many changes, and optometrists across the country felt the impact in numerous ways. Many doctors provided patient care via telemedicine, which changed consumers’ expectations.
One of those changed expectations was ease and convenience to accessing eyecare. Patients got used to not having to wait to consult with a doctor and receive the care they need. Visionix and 20/20Now make meeting this new consumer expectation a reality.
Access to Care via Tele-Optometry: Good for Patients and the Field of Optometry
There are multiple locations and areas throughout the U.S. where patients cannot access an optometrist, or they wait for an appointment for multiple months. A study by Gibson DM in 2015 showed that more than 24 percent of counties in the U.S. did not have direct access to ophthalmologist or optometrist care.* Employing the use of tele-optometry for these under-served areas to increase access to care – and still referring out when needed for in-person evaluations – is where the beauty of these advancements exists.
My passion for access to care and telehealth stems from my undergraduate degree in Urban Studies with a Concentration in Community Health, Public Health to be specific. I have been shocked by how many patients are unable to access care for five, or more, years prior to 20/20Now providing onsite exams for the patient, with a remote doctor. I am also surprised by the extensive pathology we see on our remote platform. Patients are screened and referred for many medical issues daily at 20/20Now, including, but not limited to, glaucoma, AMD, cataracts and ocular diabetic complications.
As a profession, we have the opportunity to look at the bigger picture and embrace technological advancements that benefit our patients, while ensuring they are provided with the highest quality and standard of care.
Comprehensive Eye Exams – Much More than Tele-Refraction
The care patients receive when accessing tele-optometry services via 20/20Now is high quality and dependable. I know because I am one of the doctors on the team of eyecare professionals and serve as the director of professional services at 20/20Now.
From compliance, quality assurances, audits, documentation and patient wait times, 20/20Now cares about it all. The level and quality of care that can be provided through tele-optometry is quite impressive. In fact, I often receive more objective information from testing in tele-optometry than I did in-person.
For example, multimodal screening and diagnostic systems by Visionix provide varying combinations of test modules including pachymetry measurements, angle measurements, autorefraction numbers, topography, tonometry, keratometry values, Scheimpflug imaging, as well as anterior and posterior segment photos.
Capturing this data and images to compare annually can be a helpful tool in monitoring disease. Topography helps us detect early cases of keratoconus and retro-illumination of the lens helps us detect PSC and cortical cataracts, even if the patient is un-dilated.
In addition, the 20/20Now platform integrates multiple Visionix devices, including the VX 40 automatic lens analyzer, VX 65 digital phoropter, Eye Refract binocular refraction system and MW 50D digital slit lamp.
Tele-Optometry offers Practical Applications for the Evolving Practice
Some Visionix customers benefit from already having devices that are compatible with our platform. With the strategic alliance between Visionix and 20/20Now, we have integrated a selection of diagnostic devices from Visionix, so a practice that already has that equipment can save significant money in getting what they require to set up a tele-optometry lane. The following scenarios are just a few of the examples where tele-optometry can benefit both a practice and the patient.
Scenario 1: Offices that provide eye exams can significantly increase optical sales. If a location does not have any coverage, or only partial coverage due to limited doctor availability, using tele-optometry for routine comprehensive eye exams can make a substantial positive impact on patients and practice profitability.
Scenario 2: For multi-location practices with satellite locations or those opening an additional location that have limited coverage of only a couple of days per week, tele-optometry can be a real game changer. Some offices are backed up 4-6 months due to the limited coverage, and in those cases, tele-optometry can really help clear up the backlog and bring that revenue forward, but more importantly, give those patients immediate access to care.
Scenario 3: Even though we provide comprehensive routine exams, we often find medical issues that require a referral. In the cases where there is an onsite doctor, we can refer those patients back to the practice for the onsite doctors, and if they need to be evaluated by an ophthalmologist, a referral is given just as it would be with an onsite optometrist. Tele-optometry frees up the onsite doctor from the routine refraction and allows them to spend more of their time on higher-income-producing activities, or areas of their practice they love, whether that’s glaucoma management, dry eye treatments or specialty contact lens fittings.
For the doctors and clients who are intrigued, but not ready to take the full leap into tele-optometry, 20/20Now and Visionix offers flexible options to suit your business goals. Doctors can bolster the use of Visionix equipment and the 20/20Now platform to provide services from home or anywhere while living a balanced lifestyle.
If a doctor wants to begin to pare down their clinic days, but provide services remotely to those interested, they can utilize Visionix equipment and the 20/20Now platform to provide uninterrupted services.
This alternate business model is another great option and opportunity if the doctor wants to rethink the refraction process. They can consider utilizing Visionix equipment and the 20/20Now platform with our remote team of Certified and experienced ophthalmic technicians to delegate refraction.
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The partnership between Visionix and 20/20Now opens new horizons of flexibility in lifestyle for the doctor while expanding the doctor’s availability to patients in addition to supporting practice growth. It is a new way to use advanced technology to significantly benefit doctors and patients alike.
The First Step to Getting Started with Tele-Optometry
Some questions to consider are: Is tele-optometry the right fit for your practice? Do you have the right infrastructure to adapt this business model? What does success look like? The examples in this article can vary from state to state based on local laws and regulations.
Tele-optometry is simply one way to expand your reach without compromising the quality of care. Rest assured; we will help you navigate what is possible in your area when you are ready. We will consult with practices to find out what equipment is already part of their workflow and can create a customized quote based on what they need to complete a tele-optometry lane powered by 20/20Now and Visionix.
Visionix is a leading eyecare technology company known for their state-of-the-art wavefront-based devices and innovation in the field. 20/20Now is a leading tele-optometry provider that offers comprehensive tele-eye exams where the patient is seen at a physical location by a remote optometrist. With the strength of two specialized teams, our new strategic alliance gives more practices the option to apply cost effective, in-office and quality synchronous tele-optometry―and deliver comprehensive eye exams to help more patients see better, longer.
Source: Gibson DM. The geographic distribution of eyecare providers in the United States: Implications for a national strategy to improve vision health. Prev Med. 2015;73:30-36.