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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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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.

EyeXam vision test

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

Amsler

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

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.

Mobile Marketing – Seeing is Believing!

Seeing%20is%20Believing[1]Looking for ways to stay connected with your patients between visits, while making the  in-office experience more interactive?  Mobile is the most dynamic and ubiquitous communications channel available today, and easily integrates into existing traditional marketing channels.  Check out Seeing is Believing – optometry’s first virtual conference dedicated to teaching practitioners about online tools, techniques and technology.   Here’s a sneak peak at some of the topics I’ll be discussing as part of my presentation – Mobile Marketing and Communication – Go Where the Eyes Are!

SMS Text

We love text messaging!  Everywhere we go we see people feverishly tapping away on their mobile devices.  What was once just for personal use is slowly finding a place in our practices, mostly for things like appointment reminders and alerts (ie. “your glasses are ready for pick-up”).  But what about SMS as a marketing tool?  SMS marketing is permission-based, meaning patients must opt-in to receive your messages.  As opposed to mass marketing like e-blasts or direct mail, permission-based marketing creates opportunities to define a niche market and design marketing campaigns specific to that group.  Got a dry eye specialty?  Vision therapy?  Sports vision?  Looking for ways to build awareness and attract new patients?  I’ll discuss a few ways to get people interested in joining your “mobile club”.

13251619-scanning-qr-code-with-mobile-smart-phone-isolated-on-white[1]QR Codes

QR codes are basically a link that connects to digital content when scanned with a smartphone.   They are a fun and interactive way to direct people to your website, Facebook page or even Youtube videos.  They are also a great way to drive sales by making your optical more educational.  For ex. “scan the image to see how sunglasses protect the eyes from harmful UV radiation”.   I’ll provide a list of free informational vids you can use in your optical.Continue reading

EyeXam: Connect with Your Mobile Patients

Guest blogger: Nikki Iravani, O.D., founder of the EyeXam app

EyeXam is currently the #1 app on the App store when searching for “eye exam” or “eye doctor”.

From a consumer standpoint, consumers can download the free app to conveniently communicate with VSP offices. The most popular and highly-rated features of the app include appointment scheduling anytime-anywhere, instant messaging offices to ask questions, place optical and contact lens replacement orders, set personalized reminders, view on-going promotions for eye-related products and receive notifications from VSP offices regarding upcoming promotions, sales and trunk shows.Logo

From a practitioners’ standpoint, the EyeXam Dashboard will connect the eyecare provider’s office with new and existing patients by providing valuable information about perspective patients who are in the area looking for eyecare providers and have looked at the practitioner’s profile. This enhanced marketing tool is crucial in the eyecare providers ability to expand their practice. Offices who subscribe to the mobile platform can promote sales at their offices, send reminders to their patients and communicate with their patients via EyeXam without bombarding their email and text message inboxes. VSP providers are already listed in the mobile app and can take advantage of the app’s great features by upgrading their profile for a low monthly subscription fee.

More information about EyeXam can be found at: http://www.eyexam.com

Use QR Codes to Drive Optical Sales

13251619-scanning-qr-code-with-mobile-smart-phone-isolated-on-white[1]QR codes are still a bit of an enigma for many people.  If you’re one of those people, you might think that most people share the same indifference toward these funny looking bar codes.  However, you might be surprised to hear that more than 50% of smartphone owners have scanned a QR code (ComScore), and they have grown by 120% from this time last year (NeoMedia).

Any smartphone equipped with a camera and a QR reader can scan a QR code, which serves as a link connecting you with digital or web content.  This technology allows you to interact with your patients and customers on a higher level.  Patients can scan these codes to learn about your products or services in a more interactive way.  Consider placing these in your optical or dispensary inviting patients to scan the code to see a video on the benefits of polarized lenses, progressives, etc.  Although we train our opticians to discuss these benefits, people tend to have a stronger emotional reaction to visual imagery.  If patients can “see” the value, they may be pre-sold before even sitting down with the optician.

QR4EAvoid Showrooming

Showrooming is when a customer enters a brick and morter store to touch and feel the product and then goes online or to a big-box competitor to purchase at a lower price.  While this is most common with electronics and retail clothing, I think its nonetheless worthy of our attention as online frame vendors become increasingly prevelant.  Research has shown that the longer you can keep customers in your business and engaged in the products you sell, the greater the chance you will keep the sale in-house.  Click HERE to see a quick video on QR codes and the showrooming effect.

Make it Easy!

A few suggestions on QR codes:  If room permits, provide brief instructions for your tech-averse patients (ie. visit scan.mobi on your smartphone and download the QR reader).  Also, let them know what will happen when they scan the code.  Don’t simply assume they will scan it just because you placed it there.  Lastly, consider that people who scan QR codes are on their mobile phone.  Don’t send them to your desktop website.  People on-the-go have short attention spans and want quick info, a full website does not render well on a 3 inch screen.  Now if you have a “mobile website” – that’s a different story!

Turn Scans into Revenue

It should also be noted that a third of people who scan a QR code have a household income over $100K, so these might serve to attract consumers of a higher income level with greater spending power.

If you’re looking for ways to make your optical more interactive, click HERE to access a list of QR codes that link to educational videos.  Take as many as you like – they’re free!  (author’s note: I do have permission from the various companies to use / distribute these videos for patient education purposes)

About Steve:  Steve Vargo, O.D., M.B.A. is in private practice in St. John, Indiana where he lives with his wife and 2 sons.  He also founded iMobile Communications, and frequently writes and lectures about using technology for marketing and communication.

How are your colleagues using mobile devices in practice?

As part of an upcoming article in Review of Optometric Business on using mobile devices in an optometric practice, I reached out to my colleagues for feedback on how they are using smartphones and tablets to educate, inform and entertain.  I’ve listed a few of the more interesting ways our fellow ODs are using this technology.

  • Dispensary:  Harry Wiessner, OD uses an Android Acer “slate” to take pictures of patients wearing different frames.   It has a 10-inch screen and a front and back facing camera.  After a technician takes the pictures, the patient can view themselves from different angles, plus the pictures can be sent directly to the patient or their family.
  • Developmental Vision:  Dr. Dominick Maino, developmental optometrist, uses the Parks 3 Step, Sight Selector and VisionSim from the Braille Institute to help diagnose problems, show patient examples and provide patient education.
  • Entertainment:  Jenny Carter, OD uses movies and games to help keep kids still while the parents or siblings are having their eye exam or choosing glasses.
  • Translating languages:  Dr. Mark Degainis recently used Dragon Dictation to communicate with a deaf mute.  He dictated and the patient read the transcribed side of the conversation.  There are also apps, such as Google Translate, that can translate words and phrases for almost any language.  You simply speak your phrases and hear the corresponding translation.
  • Clinical: Several ODs mentioned they use the smartphone to take slit lamp photos to educate patients or family members.  You simply hold your phone up to the oculars and draw back to focus the image, or use hardware such as the iExaminer.  You can take anterior seg photos through the slit lamp of everything from fluorescein photos of RGPs, corneal pathology, iris anomalies, lens changes, weiss rings, etc.  You can even send the photos to the lab for consultation assistance.

These are just a few examples.  Be on the lookout for the full article.  Care to contribute?  How do you use mobile devices in your practice?

Viddy: Promote Your Practice in 15 Seconds or Less

Ever considered using video to connect with your patients?  Don’t have enough time, you say?  Got 15 seconds?  Viddy is one of the hottest video sharing apps available for mobile phones.

What is Viddy?

Viddy is a relatively new social network centered on creating and sharing 15-second video clips.  Since your video uploads are limited to 15-seconds or less, it’s a similar experience to Twitter’s 140-character limit.  You can start by downloading the app in the Apple iTunes store.   It will ask if you want to add Viddy to your Facebook timeline, which you can accept or decline.  Videos are either shot with your iPhone camera (the recently released Android version is called ViddyMe) or selected from your photo library.  You can easily edit your videos with special effects, color filters and music soundtracks.  When you post a video to the Viddy network, it will invite you to post it to your other social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr.

Viddy has a user base of 26 million people, and is used mostly on smartphones and mobile devices.  Americans spend 2.7 hours a day socializing on mobile, and video streaming increased 93% from 2010 to 2011.  The rise of mobile users makes this a great tool to connect with on-the-go patients.

Here are a few ways to use 15 second videos to promote your practice:Continue reading