Optometric Management Tip # 131   -   Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Give Your Practice a Buzz with Technology

An interesting survey was published in the July issue of Optometry: Journal of the AOA. Titled High-tech Optometry, it summarized the results of a random mail survey of 4,000 ODs conducted by the AOA in 2003; a healthy 40% of those surveyed responded. One of the goals of the study was to gauge the percentage of optometrists who utilize various new technologies in clinical practice. I was surprised at how low the percentage was in several areas.

I have always found the purchase of a new high-tech instrument to be one of the best investments I could make. Iím surprised how colleagues often only see the expense and view the purchase as wasteful. Quite the contrary, here are a few benefits to consider: Here is a brief rundown of the instruments that I felt had low usage in our profession in the AOA survey.

Auto-refractor: 68% of ODs said they used one Ė which means 32% do not! I place auto-refractors on the basic equipment list for optometrists today. Itís easy to rationalize why you donít need one if you donít have one, but itís a great time-saving device and it provides a valuable second opinion on difficult refractions Ė and we all have plenty of those. Prices have dropped and accuracy has increased. Patients love to be reassured that their subjective choices (or their childís) are not the only factors used to determine their eyeglass Rx. Contact lens fittings and evaluations are simplified when your technician performs an auto-over-refraction.

Fundus Camera: 58% utilization. I hate to think that almost half of our colleagues donít have this extremely valuable clinical tool. The patient education and wow factor of pulling up digital photos in the exam room and reviewing them with the patient canít be matched. This is a reimbursable procedure under code 92250 when used for medical diagnoses. Medicare pays about $76. Many practices offer this test to all patients as an option on routine exams for a nominal fee.

Corneal Topographer: 38% utilization. Now that is low for an instrument that offers as much as this one does. As a tool for contact lens fitting and follow-up, general refractive analysis, LASIK co-management and much more, the topographer puts the keratometer in the dark ages.

Corneal Pachymeter: 38% utilization. Pachymeters are now integral to the standard of care for diagnosing glaucoma. You really canít make important decisions about IOP without it. Corneal thickness also provides important data for LASIK consultation. Pachymeters are relatively inexpensive, compared to the other three devices mentioned above.

Develop a priority list for your practice and reinvest in it every year, even if you have to borrow or lease. The buzz you create will be contagious.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management