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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor July 21, 2004 - Tip #131 
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Give Your Practice a Buzz with Technology

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An Expert Staff
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Additional Information

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. I'm surprised how colleagues often only see the expense and view the purchase as wasteful. Quite the contrary, here are a few benefits to consider:
  • The new procedure will offer new clinical information that helps you do a better job of caring for your patient. This is probably the most important benefit.
  • The new procedure may make your office more efficient - allowing an assistant to collect data and save the doctor time. Even a few minutes per patient adds up at the end of a day.
  • Patients are impressed that the practice is up-to-date and their decision to select your practice is reinforced. They feel they have come to the best. Talk is generated in personal circles and referrals ensue.
  • Your staff develops enthusiasm and pride in the practice, because of the investment in providing excellent care. The doctor feels it too. Patients sense this intangible excitement when the new technology is explained to them.
  • The new technology is 100% tax deductible. Current tax laws may allow it to be deducted all in one year, rather than depreciated.
  • If an additional fee is charged for the procedure - whether it be private pay or insurance reimbursed - the instrument usually pays for itself. It is essentially free.
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 - which means 32% do not! I place auto-refractors on the basic equipment list for optometrists today. It's easy to rationalize why you don't need one if you don't have one, but it's a great time-saving device and it provides a valuable second opinion on difficult refractions - 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 child's) 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 don't 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 can't 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 can't 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,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

A Proud Supporter of

Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
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