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LEADING OFF: Myopia Management Consults Possible Through Telehealth

Kevin Chan, O.D., F.A.A.O., medical director for Treehouse Eyes.
Photo courtesy of Matt Oerding

During the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers are turning, where possible, to telehealth appointments, which can contribute to the health of both patients and the practice. One area where telehealth appointments can work well is the myopia management consultation, says Matt Oerding, co-founder and CEO of Treehouse Eyes, a multi-location practice that focuses exclusively on myopia management in children.

“In looking at the one-hour myopia consultation appointments at Treehouse Eyes, we found that roughly 40 minutes is comprised of parent and patient education, which can easily be delivered via telehealth appoint-ments,” he explains. “With stay-at-home orders and virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are concerned about the impact of more screen time on their kids and are looking for advice. We know lack of outdoor time can increase a child’s risk of developing myopia, so we are offering free telehealth consultations right now.”

So, how do these appointments occur? First, Treehouse Eyes has marketed this service via email and paid social media advertising to generate interest. The parent or caregiver is directed to a dedicated page on the Treehouse Eyes website (treehouseeyes.com/telemedicine/ ) where the parent can get more information and schedule the telehealth consultation online. The parent receives a confirmation email with a link to a brief patient history form (e.g. child’s age, use of glasses or contact lenses, starting age of use of vision correction, current prescription, family history of myopia, etc.), an option for the child to take an online acuity test and a link to a video about myopia. When it is time for the consult, the parent clicks on the link in their calendar to connect to the Treehouse Eyes HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform.

“During the appointment, the optometrist reviews the submitted information, educates the patient on myopia, discusses the risk factors for progression, such as genetics, and reviews the potential progression by using a validated myopia calculator. The optometrist also makes lifestyle recommendations, such as less screen time, and then discusses specific treatment options, such as soft contact lenses, that may work for the child,” he offers. “If the parent is interested in pursuing treatment, we book the patient for an in-person visit for the clinical portion of the consultation.”

Treehouse Eyes has 15 locations in eight states and has started testing this offering in the metro-D.C. market. Mr. Oerding says that based on results, the service can be rolled out to other practices around the country.

“We’ve already driven over 250 clicks in the first week to get people to learn more about this new offering,” he says. “Given the uncertainty of how quickly people will feel comfortable coming in for primary care, we think this telehealth offering will be an important driver of new consultations in the future,” Mr. Oerding says. OM