There is a joke going around the optical industry about digital dispensing devices… they work great as long as we also use a Sharpie pen. Funny, but not really true.
I find there is a wide range of usage of digital dispensing devices in optometric practice. Many ODs love these devices, but I also hear from many doctors who own them and tell me they are rarely used. I hear many stories about staff who strongly resist using the systems because it takes too long or because the measurements are not accurate and repeatable enough. I admit that I have faced some challenges with the devices in my own practice; we currently have three different units. But the benefits of these systems are far greater than the problems and I think we should keep working with the devices until they become the usual routine for every pair of glasses ordered in your office.
What device should you get?
There are a number of devices available that capture an image of the patient’s face with the selected frame. From there, most devices can measure the PD, seg height, vertical optical centers, frame wrap, vertex distance, pantoscopic tilt and more. Here are some good ways to research these devices and make the best selection for your office:
Ask colleagues what they use and if it is successful.
Attend a national eye care conference with a large exhibit hall and you can try out most major brands.
Some devices are provided by lens manufacturers and may provide measurements needed for their own digitally surfaced products.
Some devices are not affiliated with any lens brand.
Some devices are contained in a large tower and some are as simple as an iPad app.
Browse the internet for vendors of digital dispensing devices.
Ask your optical lab which devices they recommend.
Some systems include 3D animated videos that demonstrate lens features such as antireflective, high index and photochromics.
Why we need them
Our image. Optical dispensaries that are inside a doctor’s office run the risk of appearing outdated. As hip optical retailers like Warby Parker and others become better known, we must work harder to create the impression that our opticals use the latest technology.
Hedge against e-commerce. The more we can play up the importance of our optical measurements and frame fitting services, the better our opticals look when compared to patients trying to do it themselves online.
Technology. Using a digital measuring device to design eyewear is an important and visible method of bringing technology to your optical. In addition, use desktop monitors, laptops, and touchscreen tablets for patient education about optical products, look up product features, check prices and place orders. Be sure your optical has high speed wi-fi and use corporate websites and apps to sell eyewear.
Wow factor. Digital dispensing tools set your practice apart and make patients talk about your practice after they leave. Consider giving patients something high tech to take home, such as a link to an educational video or print a photo of the patient in his new frames.
Currently, some vision plans pay an additional $10 for lenses that are measured with a digital device.
Worried about time?
I understand the importance of efficiency in practice very well, but as long as the patient is enjoying the optical sales experience, I don’t want to rush her. The key is spending the time on the right things. If the optician spends several minutes clicking on the software and dragging measuring points on the monitor while basically ignoring the patient, we have a problem. As measuring software and hardware are improved, we are seeing more patient-friendly systems.
We have all used a pupillometer and a pupil dot with a Sharpie pen for so long (with fairly good results) that it is only natural to compare the measurements obtained with a digital device to that method. As staff members are trained in practice sessions, it is fine to measure the glasses both ways and compare the numbers. Of course, the whole point of the digital device is to get rid of the outdated image of PD rulers and Sharpies, so stop using them in front of patients.
I have found that the digital devices are quite accurate and quite comparable to the old methods as long as the patient has good posture and the frame is placed properly on the face before the image is taken.
There is a learning curve with any new measuring method and with the software. If opticians use the digital device on every eyeglass order, speed and accuracy improves quickly.