5 Tech Innovations to Grow Your Eyecare Practice in 2022
By Practice Growth February 10, 2022
2021 was certainly a year to remember (or to forget, depending on your perspective). One of the best aspects of each passing year is the ever-increasing advancement of technology. 2021 is no exception. From improvements in scleral lens fitting efficiency to enhanced glaucoma testing portability, the eye care industry is home to one of the most innovative medical fields today. Read on as we highlight five technology innovations that made big leaps this past year, and will help grow your eyecare practice in 2022.
1) Anterior segment imaging
Photography of the anterior segment plays a major role in many eye care offices, especially those providing medical care. Historically, imaging systems were bulky, burdensome to use, and cost-prohibitive for many providers. Fortunately, these issues have been (mostly) resolved by current photo product offerings. Moreover, great pictures can be taken with one of the most common devices available in the world - a cell phone.
We all know that phone cameras can now take images with remarkable clarity. Couple this with improved slit lamp attachments that serve as phone carriers and you have a small, highly portable, and relatively inexpensive anterior segment imaging system. Most smart phones should have the capability to fit in one of the dozens of currently available slit lamp holders - too many of which to list in this article.
Keep in mind, capturing photos with a slit lamp cell phone setup would be inconsequential without image proper storage. A good software can go a long way in conveniently managing patient photos for improved eye care.
2) Contoured prism spectacle lenses
There is truth in the saying that prescribing spectacle lenses is both a science and an art. When both science and art align to prescribe and dispense a great pair of glasses for a patient, the result can be truly life-changing. A unique subset of patients require prism in their lenses to maximize visual comfort through managing the way eyes are aligned. In essence, prism alters the way light is refracted into the eye to accommodate eye misalignment. A proper pair of prism lenses can improve and even eliminate headaches and eye strain for patients.
However, there are patients that continue to suffer visual symptoms even with prism in place. For these people, and others, an even more specialized lens option is available. Here’s where contoured prism technology comes into focus. Neurolens(R) is a company that has brought contoured prism to the forefront of advanced lens technology. A Neurolens(R) device measures eye alignment to provide a varying amount of prism in lenses with the aim of maximizing visual comfort for patients.
Keep in mind, this technology may not be considered inexpensive. Nonetheless, an eye care office with an implementation plan and a viable patient population may substantially increase the bottom line with successful addition of Neurolens(R) technology.
3) Scleral lens topography/profilometry
The scleral lens industry has seen a boom in the past few years. It seems that scleral lens practitioners, myself included, can barely finish reading a new article before another paper is published that expands our knowledge of the benefits (and potential risks) of scleral lens wear. Moreover, scleral lens technology continues to improve at an unprecedented rate. The lens materials provide better oxygen permeability, the application and removal devices simplify getting lenses in and out of the eyes, and developments in imaging systems have created enhanced designs to optimize lens fitting.
These imaging systems function similarly to a corneal topographer but focus on the sclera rather than the cornea. This is helpful in scleral lens fitting because most scleral lenses land on the sclera, not the cornea. Therefore, creating a map of scleral shape allows practitioners to design and fit a lens customized for each patient’s individual eye . The benefits of scleral imaging systems are numerous. They help to maximize lens fitting efficiency, reduce remakes, and create an ideal lens-ocular surface relationship. Better yet, by using scleral maps we can create lenses with better stability, which may improve comfort and vision, thereby promoting happier patients and augmenting overall patient care.
Keep in mind, these imaging systems may be worth holding off on until your clinic manages enough scleral lens-wearing patients to justify the investment. It is prudent to evaluate how you will bill for scleral profilometry services.
4) Virtual visual field
For any optometrist or other eye care practitioner who treats patients with glaucoma, a visual field (VF) instrument is a must-have. Assessing peripheral (and central) vision defects is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing glaucoma. Without it, the main objective test remaining is optical coherence tomography (OCT), which may yield inadequate results depending on the patient. Unfortunately, traditional visual field testing is riddled with obstacles.
For one, the equipment is large and takes up a large footprint which can be problematic in offices with smaller testing rooms. Secondly, many glaucoma patients are elderly and suffer from postural abnormalities, making the positioning in the VF chinrest challenging. Additionally, the purchase price for VF instruments is often over $30,0000. These dilemmas are conveniently addressed by the development of virtual visual field technology.
With the advent of virtual VF devices, patients can now undergo peripheral vision evaluation with an over-the-eye headpiece. It’s small, portable, and patients can sit as they please. Better yet, the cost makes it more affordable than most traditional VF instruments. The technology is impressive and will likely continue to improve in years to come.
Keep in mind, there is a learning curve to most newer technologies and the same goes for virtual VF testing. Patients may be impressed with the state-of-the-art feel to these devices.
5) Intense Pulse Light
The realm of dry eye syndrome (DES) is possibly the most innovative and rapidly changing field in all of eye care. It wasn’t so long ago that many providers’ default to managing DES was to recommend artificial tears and send patients on their way (some may still opt for this). Nowadays, dry eye practitioners would argue that solely doling out artificial tears could be considered inadequate care. As optometrists, our armamentarium of treatment/management tools has grown immensely in recent years. Now, it is common to have in most medical optometry offices to have amniotic membranes, lid scrub/exfoliation apparatuses, meibography imaging systems, and more.
A technology that has been used in medicine (like dermatology) for many years but is fairly new to eye care is intense pulse light (IPL). We are still learning more about the mechanisms of action of IPL in the use of DES and meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), but we know that some of the effects include reducing inflammation and improving meibomian gland function. Personally, I implemented IPL into our clinic halfway through 2021 and the improvements in signs and symptoms of DES/MGD has been tremendous. Patients report more comfortable eyes, they are less dependent on other dry eye therapies, and the reduction in inflammation is evident upon slit lamp examination.
There are a few IPL companies that are trying to make headway in the eye care space, and the most popular to date is Lumenis. They have an IPL model called the Stellar M22TM and their newest instrument is the FDA-approved Optilight.
Keep in mind, IPL may also be used for patients with rosacea. Most practices do not bill insurance and instead charge patients cash. Some offices bundle IPL with other services like lid exfoliation, Lipiflow(R), etc. Not to mention, there’s an entire aesthetics component to IPL that remains a blue ocean in eye care.
It’s an exciting time in eye care where developments occur almost faster than we can keep up with. Start 2022 off with a bang by enhancing your office experience, patient care, and bottom line by implementing the technology discussed in this article.