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Telemedicine: Threat or Opportunity for Eye Care Providers?

According to many experts, the heath care industry is headed toward a transformative change fueled by telemedicine and point-of-care technologies.  While this market is still maturing, many remote and home-based technologies are simple enough to be used inexpensively and in remote settings.  Much of this is driven by the need for accessible, cost-effective healthcare.
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News has surfaced the past few weeks about a new technology that is seeking FDA approval to provide online glasses refractions that would bypass the need to see an eye doctor.  The company recently announced that it has received $1 million dollars in funding.  This announcement was met with a great deal of backlash from the eye care community, including the AOA which released this statement.  It’s unclear at this time whether or not this device disrupts the traditional eye care model, but it’s probably inevitable that we will see this or similar technology penetrate eye care.  Threat or opportunity?

Recently Lux Research analysts explored the potential for this market across several specialties.  According to their researchers, “ophthalmology will quickly offer consumers multiple devices for self-diagnosis and monitoring of conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma”.  Also, the aforementioned company is not the first to develop an app that measures refractive error, although most other applications have been directed at providing eye care in remote and underdeveloped areas. Continue reading

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Should I Buy My Glasses Online?

Consumers have many choices when it comes to purchasing eye wear.  The most notable change in recent years has been the ability to order glasses through online vendors.  Purchasing glasses online can be less expensive and more convenient than purchasing from your doctor’s office, but there are some services that simply cannot be provided over an Internet connection.

The Role of the Optician

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Traditionally, patients see their eye doctor for their annual exam.  When new or replacement glasses are recommended, the patient is handed off to an optician to assist with the process of choosing glasses based on style, fit, comfort and compatibility with their prescription and vision requirements.  To an untrained eye, it may appear that eye glasses are all somewhat the same – just differing in style and prescription.  Ask anyone who has struggled with nighttime glare from oncoming traffic, headaches with computer use, or the “swimming” effect of progressive lenses, and you may start to appreciate that not all glasses are made the same.  Subtle complexities can make a significant difference in glasses you love vs. glasses you tolerate.

5 Ways an Optician Can Help You See Better

  1. Match glasses to your lifestyle.  Most of us have different visual demands.  Factors such as occupation, sports and hobbies can affect how we use our eye sight.  Do you spend long hours on a computer?  Do you fish or ski?  Do you do a lot of nighttime driving?  These are just a few examples where opticians could help match the quality of each lens to a patient’s unique needs.
  2. Verify an accurate prescription.  Typically, when glasses are ordered through your doctor’s office, an optician will check the glasses before dispensing them to you to make sure they contain the correct prescription.  Although rare, sometimes mistakes are made.  It’s important to rectify this before you start wearing the glasses.  In one study, researchers found that nearly half of prescription glasses ordered online either contained the wrong lenses or failed safety standards. (Optometry, vol. 82, iss. 9, Sept 2011).
  3. Take proper measurements.  While the average consumer may be unfamiliar with terms like pantoscopic tilt, seg height and pupillary distance, this is common lingo for an optician.  It’s important that these (and other) measurements are accurate.  It’s also important that the glasses are properly adjusted to provide optimal vision.  Inaccurate optical measurements or poorly adjusted glasses can potentially result in eyestrain, headaches and distorted vision.
  4. Recommend appropriate lens designs and treatments.  To repeat an earlier phrase: not all glasses are the same!  This is especially true of progressive lenses (often called no-line bifocals), where peripheral distortion or a “swimming” effect is common with certain types of lenses.  Other factors to consider are anti-reflective coating, scratch resistance, UV protection, tints and polarized lenses.
  5. Fashion!  Hey, its not just about vision!  Glasses are also a fashion accessory.  If you’re comfortable with choosing a stylish frame that compliments your facial features, skin tone and hair color – go for it!  If you’re like the rest of us and need a little guidance in this area, an optician can be very helpful.

When your doctor presents you with a new glasses prescription, take a minute to consider all the factors mentioned above when asking yourself the question: Should I buy my glasses online? 

About: Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is the founder of New Media OD, an online resource devoted to helping doctors strengthen their online presence.  He is also a frequent contributor to Review of Optometric Business, owner of iMobile Communications, consultant for Global EyeVentures and practicing optometrist in the Chicago area.

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Add a Sports Vision Niche to your Practice

As declining reimbursements and Internet vendors continue to chip away at the traditional profit centers for optometrists, many ODs are looking for ways to remain competitive.  Specialized services have attracted the attention of many practices looking to differentiate themselves.  If you have a passion for sports, helping your athlete patients enhance their vision and improve their athletic abilities can be a rewarding and profitable niche.

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We had a chance to speak with Dr. Don Teig.  Dr. Teig is former Director of the Institute for Sports Vision in Ridgefield, CT and served as a vision consultant to many professional sports teams.  He has authored numerous articles, lectured throughout the world on this topic, and appeared on several national television and radio programs discussing vision and sports.  Dr. Teig recently retired from private practice to devote his time to his sports vision consulting business, High Performance Vision Consulting.

New Media ODTell us a little about High Performance Vision Consulting?

Dr. Teig:  I established this program last year to train doctors to be able to incorporate a “soup to nuts” Sports Vision / High Performance Vision specialty niche into their practices.   I provide 16 hours of lectures over two days, a 700 page manual that covers all aspects of this specialty from testing, training, marketing, p.r., fees, testimonials, etc.  I also provide as part of the package, 6 months of follow up e-mail and telephone accessibility to all who take this training.  Each doctor receives a certificate indicating that they have completed the course.  I conduct these programs  once a year in a group setting  for a fee of $6500 as well as one-on-one  programs on site at doctors offices for a fee of $7500.  My next group event is scheduled for January 24-25, 2014 at the Hollywood Beach Marriott in Hollywood, Florida.  Doctors can register by calling me at 203-312-3123 or on my website www.ultimateeventsllc.com.

New Media ODCan anyone start a sports vision specialty, or does this require a background in, say, vision therapy or developmental vision? Continue reading

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EyeXam: A Tour of the #1 App in Eyecare

LogoWith over 1 million downloads, EyeXam is currently the #1 downloaded eye care application in the Medical category.  Consumers can download the app for free to conveniently communicate with doctor’s offices.  Vision Source has partnered with EyeXam, offering the app as a benefit to its network of more than 2,300 offices.  If you’re wondering what it does, and how it can be used to attract patients and help eye doctors connect with patients, here is a quick tour of the main features.

Take a self-guided vision screening test (the disclaimer clearly states that this does not replace an eye examination by a licensed professional).  The most popular tests are visual acuity and color vision screenings, but there are also tests for astigmatism and eye dominance, along with an Amsler Grid to monitor macular health in AMD patients. Click here to see a video on how the visual acuity feature works.

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Doctor finder.  The EyeXam app enables users to enter a zip code or to use their current location via GPS to locate an eye doctor. VSP providers are automatically listed in the directory.Continue reading

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Monitor Progression of AMD: There’s an App for That!

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in people over 55 years old, affecting more than 9.1 million individuals in the United States.  Optometrists are on the front lines of detecting and managing this potentially devastating disease that robs people of their central vision.  In spite on advancements in treatment options, this is still a disease that needs to be monitored closely.

AmslerThe Amsler Grid has been a mainstay in determining the location and extent of macular damage.  Most of us have been doing this simple test in-office for years, and handing our macular disease patients a paper copy for home maintenance.  If you’re like me and often wonder how many of those cards end up on the bottom of a junk drawer, another option may be educating your patients about a free app that can be downloaded to their mobile phone.  One of the vision screening options on the EyeXam mobile app is the Macular Test, which allows patients to periodically perform home Amsler.  While performing the test, patients can indicate areas of scotoma or metamorphopsia by touching and drawing on the screen.  Touched areas are highlighted in red.  Results can be saved and even emailed to their doctor to monitor disease progression between scheduled visits.  From the clinical side, the convenience and real-time information creates opportunity for improved patient care and compliance.  From the business side, anything that allows us to stay connected with our patients between scheduled visits can be a great way to improve patient loyalty and compliance with follow-up visits.

As patients from all generations are gravitating toward mobile technology, remote monitoring of patients is predicted to significantly impact management of chronic disease.  Eric Topol, M.D., Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, says a consumer revolution will fundamentally change the way medicine is practiced.  Topol says the revolution will come as wearable sensors, smartphone apps, social networks, and whole-genome sequencing begin delivering “big data” to clinics, laboratories, and hospitals.  Data generated from these methods will influence the treatment and prevention of disease.

Remote patient monitoring is already impacting management of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and COPD.  Glooko is doing some interesting things with remote diabetes management.  In what ways will eye care adapt to this ever-changing environment?

About:  Steve Vargo, OD, MBA works in a group practice in Merrillville, In.  He is a frequent contributor to Review of Optometric Business, and a consultant to Global EyeVentures – developer of the EyeXam app.  He can be contacted at svargo@gmail.com.

Download the free EyeXam app.

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Mobile Apps: A Key to Patient Engagement

19062124_sAccording to Juniper Research, there were 44 million medical app downloads in 2012. This is expected to rise to 142 million by 2016.  80 percent of physicians are now using mobile technology to provide patient care.  In spite of these trends, studies have shown that only a small percentage of doctors and health care systems are actively recommending health care apps to their patients.

Most people have their mobile phones on them at all times.  25% of Americans now access the Internet only via mobile device.  Mobile allows you to stay connected with your patients anywhere, anytime.  Here are some top ways you can engage patients with mobile apps:

  • Schedule appointments
  • Send appointment reminders
  • Medication, contact lens replacement and vitamin re-order reminders
  • Bi-directional communication
  • Remote patient monitoring
  • Social media connectivity
  • Marketing / promotions

The EyeXam mobile application is the first app in eye care addressing all the features listed above for patient engagement.  Through its partnership with Eyefinity, EyeXam has over 28,000 eyecare professionals listed in a GPS-based directory.  With over 1 million consumer downloads, the EyeXam is a powerful tool to stay connected with a patient base that is increasingly moving to mobile. Continue reading

7 Strategies to Get Maximum Value from Social Media

I like hard data, mostly because somebody other than me did the monotonous research, and it takes the guesswork out of a lot of things.  Wildfire (owned by Google) recently released a report outlining seven strategies for getting maximum value from your social media posts.  A few may seem like common sense, and a few may surprise you.

  1. Tap into fans passions with photos or video media.  On Facebook, posts including a photo album, a picture or a video generate about 180%, 120%, and 100% more engagement than the average text post, respectively.  10046238_s
  2. Ask questions.  Question posts generate about 90% more engagement than the average text post.  While open ended questions require fans to consider and write out their answers, make it quick and easy by asking closed questions.  Ie. Did you know that sunglasses can protect your eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration?
  3. Tell users what you want from them.  Ending a post with an instruction to “Like” or “+1” this post usually results in a higher number of those actions.  Wildfire discovered posts on their own fan page had 4 times as many likes when the phrase “LIKE if you’re as thrilled as we are” was included.
  4. Treat your fans like they’re VIPs.  According to the research firm Razorfish, the #1 reason fans “Like” or “Follow” a brand on social networks is to get access to exclusive content, promotions and deals. Offer your patients privileged content (discounts, contests, etc.) that’s offered exclusively to your fans and followers.
  5. Invite one-on-one interactions.  Give your comments a personal touch by responding to them personally.  Make your fans feel heard and appreciated addressing them by name whenever possible, and respond to their comments one-on-one.
  6. Take your relationship to the next level.  Actively invite personal conversations by soliciting their opinions on relevant topics.  Wildfire found that their most engaging posts are consistently the ones that invite people to post any question about social media – which is always answered.  Without violating privacy issues, would your patients like the ability to get answers from you about general eye issues?
  7. Humanize your brand.  For some reason, people get excited about behind-the-scenes access.  Post VIP content, such as a video of you performing a clinical procedure or a pic of the staff dressed up for Halloween.  Give your practice a personality.

Reviewing this list, most of these posts are designed to connect on an emotional level, provide value, and operate as an extension of the outstanding customer service they received in your office.  Have you found similar results with your posts?

About: Steve Vargo, O.D., M.B.A. frequently writes and lectures on using technology and digital media for marketing eye care practices.  He also practices optometry in St. John, In., where he lives with his wife and 2 sons.

The EDGE™ – Work Smarter, Not Harder!

The EdgeLooking for a more effective way to evaluate vision care plans, staff, products and professional productivity? The EDGE™ is a consultative tool that provides easy access to your profit centers through a web-based system.  Last week I spoke with Jay Binkowitz, president of GPN™ (exclusive provider of The EDGE™), who provided some insight into how The EDGE™ can, well…give you an “edge”.

New Media OD:  You describe The EDGE™ as a “Performance Management Philosophy”.  Can you elaborate on that?

Jay: Yes. The EDGE™ is not a reporting system providing static reports and excel spreadsheets. It is a well thought out philosophy on what you should be tracking and what the information means. It takes you through a proven management routine with a series of graphs, charts and easy to understand information. But more importantly it provides you and your team the business resources to know what to do about. I call that the “then what”.

New Media OD:  Could you provide a quick overview of how the Edge works?

Jay: We seamlessly sync up with many of the industry practice management systems and upload the information from their system to our web based system The EDGE™. It takes place at night and does not have any negative effect on their program or resources.

New Media OD:  Do you think too many ODs spend time on unproductive, low-value activities, and how does The EDGE™. help re-direct their efforts? Continue reading

Infographic: Rising Use of Social and Mobile in Healthcare

Hospitals, doctors, and patients are increasingly using social media and mobile technology to obtain healthcare information. How quickly is digital healthcare growing? This infographic from Demi and Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group has the answer.

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About: Steve Vargo, O.D., M.B.A. frequently writes and lectures on using technology and digital media for marketing eye care practices.  He also practices optometry in St. John, In., where he lives with his wife and 2 sons.

Too Busy for Social Media Marketing? Hire an Agency.

Too busy to handle your social media marketing?  Or just not sure what to post or how to effectively engage your audience through social networking?  This week we spoke with Jim Shumate, founder of OD Social Net – a social networking agency that works with optometric practices.

New Media OD:  Tell us about your company, OD Social Net, and what type of services you provide.

Jim:  We think that physicians of all types need help marketing their practices. Social Net is starting with Optometrists and has plans to reach dentists and other specialties.  I have over 20 years of eye care marketing plus small business coaching and was a partner in a software development and web marketing firm.  So starting with Optometrists is a natural.iStock_000017867861XSmall

We take a holistic approach to solving the marketing riddle for a practice.  It is important to identify your target audience and build a plan around connecting with them.  If the physician lacks providers, then we supply staff training, web marketing, and social networking as needed. We have a great new service for building online reviews that we are very excited about bringing to Optometry.

New Media OD:  From a marketing perspective, what type of posts typically elicits the greatest response from previous or potential patients?Continue reading