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    ODs must embrace new technologies, says AOA panel

    Washington, DC—Disruptive technology is here to stay, and ODs must embrace it as new technologies continue to be developed and patients are eager to get their hands on them, says Deanna S. Alexander, OD, FAAO, chair of government relations committee; David A. Cockrell, OD, chair of the AOA Advocacy Group; and Steven Loomis, OD, immediate past president of the AOA, in a panel discussion at the American Optometric Association’s Optometry’s Meeting.

    “We need to continually balance patient safety and health while still being open to change,” says Dr. Alexander. “We need to be in the game, and the game is changing.”

    As companies continue to develop new apps and websites allow patients to have their eyes examined and their prescriptions renewed, ODs have been reluctant to jump on board with standards of care in question.

    Related: 1 800 Contacts now offers Opternative refraction to its customers

    Apps can be good for some

    “It comes down to standard of care,” says Dr. Loomis. “If you are in sub-Saharan Africa, are living on less than $1 a day, and the ratio of population to eye doctors is low, the standard of care is essentially zero.”

    Dr. Loomis says that in countries which lack accessible care, these new technologies can help.

    “These patients don’t have access to care,” says Dr. Loomis. “Access to some care is better than access to no care. From a humanitarian aspect, it makes some sense.”

    As these technologies come into play in the U.S., ODs must reconsider what is standard of care.

    “Improved access to inferior care is never a step forward,” says Dr. Loomis.

    Related: SC vs. Opternative: An example of what makes optometry great

    Popular options that are currently on the market include:

    • Simple Contacts—An app to renew contact lenses online. It costs $10, then you can purchase your contact lenses online through the company. It is currently functioning in about 40 states.

    • Opternative—An eye test that is registered with the FDA but not FDA approved. The company sends an Rx signed by an ophthalmologist after performing an online refractive eye test. The procedure is $40 for glasses and $60 for contact lenses.

    • InstaRx—Created by Opternative and 1 800 Contacts partnership. For $20 patients can renew their contact lens Rx online.

    • EyeQue—Smartphone adapter for auto refraction. It costs patients $29.99.

    • SVOne— Auto-refraction equipment aimed to skip the visit to the OD and optical shop, according to Dr. Alexander.

    These companies use ophthalmologists to sign their Rxs, and they suggest their customers should have a comprehensive eye exam.

    The question remains if these new technologies are safe care—they may weaken the doctor-patient relationship leaving many underlying conditions undiagnosed.

    These apps tend to follow the telehealth model—meaning they have a broader consumer approach that often times bypasses the optometric profession in many ways.

    Giovanni Castelli
    Giovanni Castelli is the content specialist for Optometry Times. He is a 2014 graduate of Cleveland State University with a degree in ...

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