Dr. Aaron Lech, founder of Clearvue Optometry, sits down with Dr. Patricia Fulmer to discuss the biggest disruptive forces in optometry today and how eye care professionals should respond to them.
For Dr. Lech, the biggest threat to optometry is internal – seeing these disruptive forces as threats rather than as on opportunity to reflect on how the profession can do better.
Dr. Lech uses Hubble Lenses as an example, pointing out that Hubble’s success exposes problems with the delivery of our products. Not only do patients gravitate toward the convenience of subscription models, but many times patients can’t afford the contact lenses their optometrists recommend for them. Practices could take measures to improve the convenience or affordability of their products – however, when patients want a cheaper and less effective product, it’s still our job as professionals to give them the information they need to make an educated decision.
When asked about online refraction tests, Dr. Lech also sees the proliferation of these tests as reflecting the patients’ desire for convenience. Many patients without major vision issues might choose online tests because they aren’t aware of the value of the services we provide. “You can’t have cookie cutter care” for any of your patients, Dr. Lech says, which is why the profession should adopt lower budget testing options to engage these patients and bring them into our practices.
A 510k clearance regulation on medical devices is “an important check,” according to Dr. Lech, as it “makes sure the patients’ best interest comes before profit.”
One benefit of products like Hubble or online refraction is they give optometrists the opportunity to contrast these inferior products with the value of our own services. Dr. Lech feels we need to improve our efforts to communicate to our patients why what we do is important. New technologies also challenge our traditional payment and reimbursement models. As consumers vote with their dollars and the number of millennials choosing vision plans decreases, the profession needs to take a hard look at itself and ask, “did we give these customers value?”
Dr. Lech does see a bright side for the profession. With 83 million prediabetes patients in the US, optometry needs to do a better job of reaching out to this demographic. Telemedicine is going to play a bigger role in the future, and “optometry should be a part of that.” Dr. Lech says that “we should participate in these technologies and help them develop better algorithms,” and find the best way to educate our patients about their health using these systems. Dr. Lech has had success using imaging technologies, like OCT angiography, to compel patient engagement with their own health. In the end, Dr. Lech reminds us, this new technology just isn’t good enough to replace a doctor’s visit, but points to areas where we can improve our services.