Can Telemedicine Replace Your Eye Doctor - Smart Vision Labs

Can Telemedicine Truly Replace Your Eye Doctor?

“I love your new glasses! And I am so happy that you finally got your vision checked.”

Your friend laughs and agrees that it took a while to admit that reading a book with outstretched arms was not the smartest (or most comfortable) thing to do.

“Where did you get your vision checked? Did you have a long wait?”

She laughs again and says that the entire exam was about 5 minutes.

You don’t laugh because when you went to the eye doctor you were there for over an hour.

“Huh?”

Your friend explains that she went to an optical store for the Smart Vision Labs 5-Minute Vision Exam.

“But don’t you need to see an eye doctor?”

Good question and one that a lot of people are asking. Can a 5-minute vision exam replace your eye doctor? The answer is yes and no.

Vision Exams vs. Eye Exams

A vision exam, like the one provided through Smart Vision Labs, is known as a refraction test which measures a person’s need for prescription glasses or contacts.

Eye exams are comprehensive evaluations that include a refraction test, examination of both the external and internal parts of the eyes, and a test of the fluid pressure.

Both of these exams are valuable diagnostic tools to maintain optimal eye health.  In fact, the American Optometric Association recommends that people between the ages of 18 and 60 get a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years.

Telemedicine and the Eye Doctor

Telemedicine doesn’t seek to replace the eye doctor; this technology works alongside licensed ophthalmologists who review the data generated at the exam and to write prescriptions if needed. It would be best to take the “us vs. them” mentality out of the equation. Telemedicine is an effective way to diagnose and offer corrective lenses.

With telemedicine, the doctor is always “in.” With cloud technology, the doctor can access a patient’s records and make an appropriate diagnosis. This is not only convenient, it’s a cost-effective option. People in rural areas or those who are homebound also benefit because they do not have to physically show up at an office for a vision exam. Through video conferencing and smartphone apps, doctor can actually connect with more patients than ever before.

Something Old, Something New

Telemedicine is one of the most significant heathcare trends, yet it really isn’t new. While its presence and potential is literally disrupting the eyecare industry on all levels, it is able to do that now because of the recent advances in technology. Add to that a patient base which is looking to save time and money, and there is no question that telemedicine is able to outperform the older methods of doctor and patient communication.

But should you never schedule an in-person visit with an eye doctor again? No. Have your eyes examined at least every two years with an in-person visit.

But also make use of telemedicine for vision exams. And here’s a secret that sets telemedicine apart from the old ways. People will take a proactive stance with their vision care when they can get an exam at their convenience, without long waiting times, and be able to afford it.

Telemedicine gives power to the patients without diminishing the role of healthcare professionals. And that’s a healthy vision we can all embrace.

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Telemedicine of Today

Telemedicine of Today

If telemedicine is a new term for you, it’s time to be introduced.

Telemedicine is an exciting new advancement of medical treatment, which connects patients with qualified healthcare professionals through remote communication. It becomes particularly useful in cases such as monitoring a patient with a chronic condition, creating access to specialists regardless of geographic location, or to get care to those who are unable to leave their home due to physical or mental health conditions. Imagine how helpful being able to communicate with a doctor through a live video feed might be to someone who suffers from chronic pain or PTSD. They can reach the care they need without preparing for what might be a difficult trip in leaving their home.

Telemedicine is only one aspect of a larger field. Telehealth is the all-encompassing term for everything related to the junction between communication and health care. All telemedicine is telehealth but telehealth includes more than just telemedicine.

Telemedicine is focused on the direct link between patients and doctors. It uses communication technology to allow doctors to remotely diagnose, treat, and provide ongoing monitoring for patients. While telehealth includes this one-on-one type of interaction, it is also used for broader health communications. Something that is part of telehealth only is the education of both medical employees and the public. This aspect involves informing the public about a local health concern or continuing to provide education for current healthcare providers.

American Well Telemedicine kiosk
American Well Telemedicine kiosk

How Does It Work?        

Telemedicine uses the Internet, computers, and mobile devices to give patients access to medical care. This broad definition means the field of telemedicine is ever expanding as people find new uses for it or realize it is a solution to an existing problem. Innovation in telemedicine, in both the technology and medical aspects, has proven useful in alleviating concerns and struggles voiced by both patients and medical care providers.

While the exact procedure differs depending on what the healthcare concern is, the idea is to allow the patient to “visit” a doctor and benefit from their knowledge without having to actually visit their office. The basic concept creates a way for the patient to transfer medical information electronically to a doctor, who will review it and report back their findings.

Practicing telemedicine could be as simple as sending a few emails back and forth. During the email conversation, the patient mentions the wound from their recent surgery hurts a bit. The doctor asks for an image of the healing incision and the patient attaches it to their reply. Is the doctor concerned about the appearance? He might ask the patient to use an app to report their vital signs, looking for signs of infection.

It sounds simple but that is what telemedicine looks like in practice. Which is really the goal. The futuristic sounding terms are meant to achieve accessible and affordable health care.

But don’t start picturing severely ill patients asking an online forum if they should go to the hospital for their broken leg. The point of telemedicine is to get more patients the clinical care they need from accredited doctors. The most popular reasons and uses for telemedicine reflect this mission: relieving demands of time for doctors and patients and continued monitoring of an existing, but stable, condition. Telemedicine is about avoiding unnecessary office visits, not making office visits unnecessary.

How Does Telemedicine Benefit Me?

While telemedicine is indeed a great use of current technology, for anything to be considered successful, there has to be measurable benefits. To better understand these benefits, let’s start with the people telemedicine is designed to help. And that includes you.

Patients have three main areas of concern and they are convenience, cost, and capability. While these things may be prioritized differently for each individual, these are most often cited when asked about satisfaction with the healthcare industry.

Being able to access medical care in a convenient way is one of the hallmark principles of telemedicine. People in rural areas or who are physically unable to leave their homes are at a major disadvantage when scheduling office visits with a doctor. And even if you are not in those categories, most patients want a simpler way to see a doctor when they need to. Scheduling time away from work or school is difficult to coordinate with the often limited office hours of physicians. And let’s not even think about needing a doctor on a holiday or weekend.

The ever-increasing cost of medical care is always an issue. Telemedicine actually reduces the cost through their remote analysis and electronic data storage which require less physical resources to maintain. Telemedicine can possibly eliminate unnecessary visits to the ER as well as transportation expenses for patients who require it. The technology used, while being cutting-edge and impressive, also lowers other traditional costs associated with medical care. It is better able to manage chronic illnesses, and results in shorter hospital stays, as well as lower readmission rates.

The capability of the doctor will always be a major concern and telemedicine addresses this by giving patients better access to more specialists. Patients can be referred to specific doctors, regardless of their location. This technology enables specialists to perform detailed consultations from miles away. Having the ability to access the medical minds of all these physicians might be the most outstanding feature of telemedicine.

Although these are only three benefits associated with telemedicine, patients often mention others like not having to lose time from work to for a doctor’s visit, having their medical information easily accessible through a secure portal, and being able to engage with doctors in more relaxed setting than an office or hospital.

Above all, there is a very high level of patient satisfaction with telemedicine which demonstrates its success to address key concerns and needs of patients.

Telemedicine is Right Here, Right Now

In case you might think that telemedicine is still a thought of the future, you can literally reach out and touch it. Right now. In fact, you may already have used some of this technology though one of these services.

Teladoc is pretty much what the name implies: tell a doctor. But this on-demand service uses mobile devices, video, phone, and the Internet. Yet, there is no donning a gown and jumping up on the examining table. The patient sees a doctor through audio-video technology for diagnoses, consultations, or to receive ongoing monitoring of prescription medication. Teleadoc promises quality care when you need it. And the average wait time to speak to a licensed doctor by web, phone or mobile app is less than 10 minutes.

Teladoc telemedicine

SnapMD uses cloud-based technology to streamline and integrate all aspects of medical care. This is a simple and cost-effective way to access servers, storage, databases, and other applications over the Internet. While patients can see licensed physicians through the use of mobile devices, SnapMD also encrypts their medical history and is compliant with HIPAA privacy regulations. Doctors can view their medical charts during the call which provides more information to make a thorough analysis. On the paperwork side, having the patient’s medical data in a convenient location assists in the process of filing insurance claims, determining co-pays, and verifying health plan coverage.

snapmd telemedicine

BreakThrough focuses on mental health and advertises confidential online therapy from your couch. This service has enhanced the therapeutic experience by providing a wide range of licensed therapists and psychiatrists. It also eliminates the possibility of running into someone in the waiting room, which is often a worrying concern that patients have. Patients benefit from easy access to mental health providers, and can fit in a therapy session at times that are most convenient, including nights and weekends. Research has proven that online counseling is just as effective as in-person therapy.

telemedicine breakthrough

Smart Vision Labs covers another, sometimes overlooked, aspect of health care: vision exams. They offer a 5-minute vision exam that uses the same type of technology designed for LASIK procedures. Patients are asked a few questions about their overall health and then their eyes are scanned. These photos, as well as the data generated from them, are sent to a licensed doctor via cloud technology. If any prescription is needed, the patient can access it through a secure online portal. In fact, prescriptions will be kept on the server, along with medical data, so the patient can review this information. Once again, telemedicine offers convenience as well as quality care for the patient.

telemedicine for eye-care Smart Vision Labs

Telemedicine: Sci-Fi or WiFi?

The idea of seeing a doctor through an audio-visual link or conferring with a specialist in the comfort of your own home has a little science fiction feeling to it. But it’s all real thanks to the technology and the wonders of WiFi.

Health care has been a much discussed topic, from the White House to your own house. Although people and politicians may disagree on the best way to reform health care, everyone agrees on the idea of making it affordable and accessible. Telemedicine has done just that. It may not even be a stretch of the imagination to say that telemedicine has been at the forefront of affordable care years before it was a federal statute.

What does the future hold?  

Telemedicine has not reached its full potential but has started a momentum in the healthcare industry that will be unstoppable. Despite the availability of interactive devices to connect patients and physicians, policies enacted in some states make it difficult for telemedicine to do what it was intended to do: provide everyone with convenient, cost-effective, and competent care. But the success of telemedicine and the satisfaction of both patients and physicians are causing lawmakers to rethink certain restrictions that unnecessarily regulate coverage.

Telemedicine is an exciting merging of technology and medicine that can and will change the format of health care. Everyone on the planet, regardless of geographic location, financial restraints, or physical or mental impairments, can receive medical care by qualified physicians. A wide range of conditions can be diagnosed and treated, from the flu to sprains and strains. Mental health providers can counsel patients in their own homes and vision exams are performed in five minutes with LASIK technology as a diagnostic tool.

Healthcare reform has started and we have only begun to appreciate its success and recognize its potential.

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mobile autorefractors - Smart Vision Labs

What is Telemedicine? What Effect Will It Have on the Care of Your Eyes?

What is Telemedicine?

The prefix “tele” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “far off” or “distant.” You’re already familiar with many words that start with it. Telescopes and televisions are devices that let you see objects that are far away. A telephone lets you talk with people who are at a distance.

So what is telemedicine? As you have probably concluded, it means medicine that is practiced when there is distance between a care provider and a patient. And chances are that you are already familiar with certain forms of it . . .

  • If you have had the results of an MRI or other test forwarded to a specialist or hospital that is not located near where you live, you have benefitted from a form of telemedicine.
  • If you have taken an online test to help determine whether you have a condition such as attention deficit disorder, depression or chronic fatigue syndrome, you have also experienced a form of telemedicine.
  • If you have used WebMD.com or another online health service to diagnose a health problem – anything from a rash to a headache or a swollen toe – you have taken part in a form of telemedicine too.

Why Is Telemedicine Needed to Provide Vision and Eye Care?

At first thought, you might decide that the majority of Americans already have access to appropriate eye care. Several eye doctors are doing business near where you live, right? Plus, eye care must be available in the hospitals that are located near where you live.

Those observations might lead you to conclude that most Americans already have access to quality eye care. But when you review some of these statistics amassed by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it becomes clear that there are vast numbers of Americans experience vision and eye problems – so many, in fact, that many of their eye conditions go undiagnosed or untreated . . .

  • Approximately 14 million Americans aged 12 years and older have self-reported visual impairment defined as distance visual acuity of 20/50 or worse. Among them, more than 11 million Americans could have improved their vision to 20/40 or better with refractive correction.
  • 1,600,000 Americans aged 50 years and older have age-related macular degeneration.
  • 3 million Americans (about 2.5% of the total population) aged 18 years and older have diabetic retinopathy.
  • 5 million Americans (about 16% of the total population) aged 40 years and older have cataracts.
  • 2 million Americans (about 2% of the total population) aged 40 years and older have glaucoma.

And where do those Americans live? All across the nation, including in areas that are underserved by hospitals, physicians and other health care providers. That explains the need for eye examinations that can be administered remotely to Americans who live in many parts of the country.

Telemedicine Will Meet the Need

What will bridge the gap and provide needed diagnostic eye screenings to all those Americans? Here are some trends to watch . . .

  • Self-operated vision testing devices, like the SVOne from Smart Vision Labs, will be installed at thousands of locations where they will allow individuals to quickly and inexpensively obtain prescriptions for corrective prescriptions.
  • Self-operated vision testing devices will arrive in stores and other locations that are already widely available in many locations where the need for professional eye care is not being met.
  • Self-operated vision testing machines will gain wider usage in hospitals, clinics, optometrists’ offices and other locations, making quality vision tests available more quickly and conveniently to millions of Americans who do not currently have access to them.

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The Age of Remote Eye Care Has Dawned

Can telemedicine meet the medical needs of all Americans who need eye care? Not in all cases, because individuals with certain conditions like macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy will still require the care of physicians who specialize in eye care.

Yet telemedicine stands ready to provide quality diagnostic vision testing to millions of Americans. We are about to live in an age when fewer and fewer Americans will have to live with the burden of poor vision. It will truly be a brave new world of better vision, thanks to telemedicine and advanced vision technology.

Click here to see how Dr. Jordan Kassalow is using the SVOne to increase efficiency in his New York City practice
Click here to see how Dr. Jordan Kassalow is using the SVOne to increase efficiency in his New York City practice

 

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