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    Using virtual reality in your practice

    As other professions adapt to VR, it’s time for optometry to do so as well

    Virtual reality (VR) has been used in health care for decades. Dentistry has utilized VR simulations to relax patients, and ophthalmic researchers have used it to simulate a patient’s vision with both glasses and contact lenses. Optometric institutions have begun using virtual simulation labs to teach procedures, for example, direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy.1

    VR evolution

    When significant changes in the world occur, it takes a great deal of time. However, when everything is aligned, change hits us at light speed.

    Optometry had heard for years in the 1980s and 1990s that the move toward electronic health records (EHR) was coming. While many of us became skeptical it would happen, the changes and movement to EHRs came quickly. For ODs, it is important that we not only provide quality care, but that we deliver a first-class experience to our patients.

    How do we differentiate ourselves from other vision care options that patients have?

    Previously from Dr. Wong: Using technology, medical informatics in patient education

    Innovative technology is certainly one way to catch a patient’s attention. Most patients will appreciate ODs who are not only current but use state-of-the art technology. If we follow the news, we can see that many groups have already made significant investments in virtual and augmented reality, such as, Facebook, Google, Amazon, professional sports, and major universities. Augmented reality refers to applications in which VR is used to overlay 3-D data on live images—such as the images seen through a microscope during surgery.2

    How can VR and virtual simulations improve my patients’ experiences, supplement the care I deliver, and integrate into a busy optometric office?

    In my opinion, several areas are important for the primary care OD:

    • Continuing education and training

    • Advanced diagnostic testing

    • Patient education and experience

    • Innovations in eyecare treatments

    Related: Handling patients who want you to adjust glasses purchased online

    At our “SUNY Optometry New Technologies Hackathon I: The Future Eye Exam,” there was much discussion about the use of VR during an eye exam. Some believed that it was integral to the future of eye care, and some believed that it was an expensive way to use technology that is not yet proven to have clinical value.

    Thomas A. Wong, OD
    Dr. Wong is a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry and a member of the AOA Ethics committee and ASCO Ethics SIG. He is a past ...


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