Antonio Chirumbolo, OD, talks with Dr. Brian Rogoff, president of EyeExec Consulting, at Vision Expo East on the future outlook for optometry and how new graduates can best prepare themselves for changes in the field.
The conversation turns to how best to use technology to promote overall eye health.
One of the challenges facing eye care professionals today is the emergence of disruptive technologies, such as online vision tests. While professional and government institutions have warned patients that these online tests don’t meet the standards of an eye exam, demand from consumers for more convenient ways to monitor their ocular health has led to a proliferation of these substandard online tests.
Dr. Rogoff says the best way to reach these patients is to inform medical colleagues of the range of services an eye care professional can provide. For example, primary care physicians should inform patients with diabetes of the importance of regular comprehensive eye exams, and state optometry associations can help with campaigns to educate the public.
The optometric practice of the future should make smart use of disruptive technology, since the healthcare industry is driven by reducing costs and patients increasingly demand convenience from service providers. Telemedicine can be used to effectively monitor patient health, and patient demand for these services is “well over 90%, close to 98% in some studies,” Dr. Rogoff says.
The future becomes precarious for practices who refuse to adapt to new technologies, as the demand for these products is driven by consumers.
Refusing to utilize new technologies could have a detrimental effect on a practice’s bottom line. When it comes to technological innovation, “the value’s not from our perspective, but from the patient’s perspective,” Dr. Rogoff says. “You have to see what they want most and change your practice with those values.”
When it comes to growing the scope of practice through changes in public policy, Dr. Rogoff concedes that the process isn’t easy. The agenda moving forward needs to focus not only on the medical side, such as treating glaucoma or doing laser procedures, but also the overall health of the patient, especially when it comes to nutrition.
Dr. Rogoff also spoke to the importance of students getting involved. “These privileges you’ll graduate with - these aren’t rights,” he says. “We had to work hard for many years, and in some states we’re still fighting.” He advises attending the Congressional Advocacy Conference put on by the American Optometry Association, which saw record turnout from students last year. He also says to get involved in your local society - not just by paying dues, but also attending meetings, networking with other doctors, and getting familiar with the state-level agenda. For example, it took years for states to legalize eye drops to dilate pupils, but once one state did, it set a precedent for other states to follow.
In short, optometry is a dynamic practice, and what worked for yesterday won’t necessarily work for tomorrow. It’s important to be forward thinking and look at the changes to the profession as new opportunities to better serve our patients. Just as with any other profession, he says, “you either adapt or you don’t.”