The Pros and Cons of Teleoptometry
Should you practice teleoptometry?
In this video, I share the pros and cons of teleoptometry as well as my thoughts on remote optometric care.
Let’s start with the pros of teleoptometry.
Pro 1 - Access to comprehensive eye care
The United States is a big country and coverage gaps exist in various areas of each state. More populated areas, like your cities and your suburbs, have access to a lot of optometric care. In the more rural or less populated regions, teleoptometry has a lot of opportunities to serve those in need.
As an optometrist, you may want to take a vacation without interrupting patient care. If you don't have adequate backup coverage, you have to close the office.
When a doctor needs to take maternity leave or is out sick, teleoptometry can help bridge the gap to provide patients with access to comprehensive eye care during expected and unexpected events.
Pro 2 - Increased flexibility for the provider
With the birth of teleoptometry, optometrists now have the ability to work from home or anywhere with secure wifi. This could be another office space, while traveling, or when visiting family who lives across the country.
It adds an extra level of flexibility to log in and, with the appropriate tools and connectivity, provide comprehensive patient care.
Pro 3 - Added convenience to the patient
We live in a very "me" driven world.
The thought process of a lot of our patients is:
“What can you do for me right now?”
“How can you help me?”
"When are you going to serve me?"
Whether they want to be seen in the morning, evening, or on the weekends, teleoptometry helps bridge the gap to provide care for patients when they want to be seen.
Pro 4 - Cost savings to the practice or corporation
Anybody who's implementing teleoptometry and trying to cover multiple locations can do so by hiring fewer physical optometrists. Through teleoptometry, a doctor has the ability to remote into various locations throughout the day to provide optometric care.
Depending on the volume of patients that need to be seen and the support that's in place, you can cover multiple locations with one optometrist.
Now let's take a look at the cons of teleoptometry.
Con 1 - Inability to effectively provide medical and specialty eye care
Medical and specialized optometry is the present and future of optometric care.
I don't see teleoptometry taking the place of these kinds of services that really need to be done in person.
For example, if you need to get a better view of a patient's peripheral retina, dilating the patient's eyes to do so is a best practice and standard of care.
Unfortunately, most specialized optometric care is it's not conducive to teleoptometry.
RELATED: 10 Types of Optometry Specialties
Con 2 - Technology issues
IT issues happen all the time. Internet outages occur and are frustrating when they happen.
Frozen screens and connectivity lags can really interrupt your ability to provide teleoptometric care.
Therefore, if you don't have a good IT setup or support system in place, it's going to be a bumpy road.
Con 3 - Optometric technician limitations
The information collected via a teleoptometric exam is done by an optometric technician who performs standard pretesting and clinical skills like slit lamp.
When providing teleoptometric care, you are limited to the competency, training, and personal motivation of the optometric technician that is capturing patient information.
For example, if they weren't trained very well, you may receive unreliable data.
Also, if they don’t care about the job and are just there to get a paycheck, you may notice a lack of effort to support your clinical care.
Con 4 - A less personalized doctor-patient relationship
In-person eye care will always be superior to remote teleoptometric care.
Occasionally, supplementing in-person care with remote care is not a bad way to bridge the gap and continue that relationship when you're physically unavailable to be there.
However, the doctor-patient relationship year over year is best established and cultivated when you are in person with your patient base.
Con 5 - Regulatory limitations
Teleoptometry is a very new concept. Some state optometry boards are more open and favorable towards it while other state boards are not.
If you want to practice teleoptometry, you definitely want to check and see if you are able to provide teleoptometric care in your state or the state(s) you intend to do so.
For example, if you are working from Michigan and you want to provide teleoptometric care in North Carolina, you’d have to take North Carolina boards to do so.
Some state optometry licenses are easier to get than others. This is something to be mindful of when signing up to provide teleoptometric care.
My thoughts on teleoptometric care
When I first heard about teleoptometry, I was guarded, reserved, and skeptical.
I didn't want it to overtake the doctor-patient relationship. I didn't want it to negatively impact the profession. I was nervous about the quality of care that would be provided.
Truth be told, I don't see it overtaking medical optometry or specialized optometry. I don't see it taking the place of the doctor-patient relationship that can be built during in-person care.
However, I really do feel it gives us the opportunity to expand our reach and provide care in areas where there is a lack of coverage. It’s also very viable to help when somebody's sick, help cover maternity leave, and allows providers to go on vacation without interrupting clinical care.
If you can control the teleoptometric process (well-trained technicians, good internet setup, state-of-the-art technology, etc.), I feel it's a viable alternative to in-person care.
Like it or not, teleoptometry is here to stay! As a forward-thinking optometrist, I recommend exploring teleoptometry in your practice. You never know when it may come in handy.
What are your thoughts on teleoptometry and providing teleoptometric care in your practice? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for my next video where we can reflect and grow stronger together.
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