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    Optometry must adapt to evolving AI

    Atlanta—Imagine a computer that creates patient care plans, a front office that holds no inventory, and patients who have their optometry visits in virtual reality.

    This is one potential future scenario that may be in store for optometry, and it may be coming sooner than most practitioners realize, according to Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, senior vice president of customer development of Essilor of America, Inc.

    Speaking at SECO 2017, Dr. Purcell described a future that may sound like more like science fiction than fact, but he assured his audience that major, industry-disruptive technology is already in the works. Optometrists will be faced with making fundamental decisions about how their practices will function in the next three to10 years.

    Related: Will optometry’s fear of disruptive technology backfire?

    AI is coming

    One of the biggest industry disruptors across sectors has been artificial intelligence (AI). Already present in numerous daily applications, such as Siri and Cortana on mobile phones, research into AI is developing at a break-neck pace.

    Companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook are all vying for the future of AI integration into people’s daily lives, and optometry is not immune to the changes.

    “Artificial intelligence will change your professional lives in the next two to three years. And it already has changed it in many ways; you just don't call it artificial intelligence,” Dr. Purcell says.

    Dr. Purcell predicts that AI will change optometry in the area of information storage and retrieval.

    Related: Embracing change in the eyecare industry

    “What if everything you learned from the first day you went to optometry school to five minutes ago could be available at your fingertips?” Dr. Purcell says.

    Such a tool would allow optometrists to enter a patient's history, symptoms, and other information and cross-reference it against the optometrist’s years of experience and learning—presumably enhancing patient outcomes.


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