Article Date: 11/1/2010

Where's the Latest Technology?
Inquiring Minds …

Where's the Latest Technology?

By Erin Murphy, Associate Editor

WITH SO MANY excellent optometry schools, new ODs enter their field with competence and confidence. But there's always some hands-on learning left to do, as well as some business realities to face. How do those two worlds — school and practice — compare in offering you access to the latest technology? New OD asked some optometrists to share their experiences and found some interesting variability.

Practice Technology > School

Several ODs say they had to “live and learn.” Their first exposure to new technology occurred after optometry school.

“I graduated in 2004, and I don't believe I ever ran a GDx, OCT, RTA or endothelial microscope when I was a student,” says John G. McDaniel, OD, MLHR, President of Waugoo Consulting Group, LLC, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. “It might have been the luck of the draw with my rotations and patient experiences, but I learned everything I needed to know about these technologies on my own after school.”

Kim Castleberry, OD, CEO of Plano Eye Associates in Plano, Texas, has had many new ODs work in her practice. “I've found that students aren't up to speed with the latest technology. In fact, we had to stop accepting interns because they couldn't use EMR,” she says. “In my experience, they like the technology, but they don't know what to do with it yet.”

It seems that although optometry schools provide excellent clinical preparation, they may not have all the latest tools. On the other hand, some ODs have the opposite experience.

School Technology > Practice

“In most situations, schools have more technology than many young doctors will ever get their hands on once they leave school,” according to Scot Morris, OD, of Eye Consultants of Col-orado, LLC, in Conifer.

In essence, some ODs feel they're graduating from cutting-edge technology to dull reality. That reality is all part of running a business, says Kelly K. Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University College of Optometry in Columbus. She explains, “It's my impression that new ODs are exposed to the latest equipment in their rotations or schools. Then they enter the workforce and discover it takes ‘real money’ to buy new things.”

Brian Chou, OD, FAAO, of Carmel Mountain Vision Care, San Diego, sheds light on why schools may have new technology before independent practices do.

“Manufacturers strategically place their technologies in optometry schools to expose students and faculty to their products. The teaching institutions benefit by acquiring new instrumentation at reduced cost, while the students benefit from exposure to the latest in technologies,” Dr. Chou explains. “The manufacturers hope that the students and faculty will like and become accustomed to their products, influencing future instrument purchases. In many cases, the technologies benefit practitioners and patients alike, while some of the technologies have limited benefit in actual practice.”

This kind of arrangement, in itself, may create a time lag between school and practitioner acquisitions, but according to Dr. Chou, other factors are also at work.

“Any practice is constrained by space limitations and financial resources, and practice owners must justify bringing new technology on board,” he says. “If new graduates understand that, then they'll have realistic expectations when they move into ‘real-life’ practice.”

School ≈ Practice

Offering another perspective, Neil Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, president of Gailmard Consulting and CEO of Gail-mard Eye Center in Munster, Ind., believes schools strike a good balance with “real-world” practice. “For the most part, I think clinical training in school is pretty close to private practice, especially because most, if not all, schools require some training at offsite clinics and practices,” Dr. Gailmard says. “Students know that not all practices have an OCT, for example, and they're taught to manage patients without that technology.”

Out in the “real world,” you may be able to add your own voice to those technology purchase decisions. In the meantime, take advantage of every opportunity to use new technology while in school and be prepared for anything once you leave those hallowed halls. nOD

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2010