A new company in the burgeoning telemedicine field says it can help optometrists perform eye exams while virtually being in two places at the same time. Touting this concept as “tele-optometry,” DigitalOptometrics hopes to provide convenience to patients seeking eye exams and greater opportunities for ODs—without the acrimony that typically surrounds the concept of remote refraction services.
The concept behind DigitalOptometrics is a software system that allows optometrists in the company’s network to perform a comprehensive eye exam remotely. Doctors can also interact with patients through live video conferencing during the exam.
Here’s how it works: A patient can walk into a participating practice or optical site without an appointment. They would then enter their information and medical history on a computer or tablet. Next, an ophthalmic technician located at the participating site would perform a prescreening exam, including autorefraction, tonometry, fundus photography, a video slit-lamp and auto-lensmeter readings. The information would then be sent to a licensed optometrist who would check the visual findings and discusses them with the patient through a live videoconference. The patient then would receive an eyeglass or contact lens prescription.
DigitalOptometrics says the entire exam would take 30 minutes or less. If an ocular issue did show up during the exam, the doctor would refer the patient to a specialty provider as needed.
“Optometrists are not limited to examining patients at a single location but can perform comprehensive exams of patients at multiple locations through remote operation of ophthalmic equipment and high-definition videoconferencing,” says Howard Fried, OD, company president.
Another plus, according to Dr. Fried, is that optometrists could have greater flexibility and even the opportunity to work in their home offices, which would allow homebound licensed optometrists the chance to return to their profession on days and hours that are convenient to them.
“Now optometrists, who could never be in two or three places at the same time, can expand their practices by opening additional locations and can, in fact, be in two to three places at the same time by seeing some of their patients in person, while seeing other patients remotely,” he adds.
Dr. Fried explains a host provider can use their own optometrists to serve multiple locations, or they can use DigitalOptometrics’ optometrists or a combination of both. With a “flip of a switch,” an optometrist can turn off the remote portion of the optical system and use the software manually to do direct office exams, he adds.
Dr. Fried says his system differs from other telehealth optical systems primarily because it consists of a comprehensive eye health and vision analysis that includes a subjective refraction and allows voice and visual communication between the remote doctor and patient, so questions can be addressed during the exam.
In the growing world of telemedicine, not all current players are happy with this latest addition. Telemedicine company 20/20Now recently filed a lawsuit against DigitalOptometrics claiming infringement of intellectual property.
“20/20 Vision filed a lawsuit in April claiming infringement. Our counsel has advised us that our patent does not infringe on the 20/20 patent,” Dr. Fried says. “After review of our patent, we are hopeful that 20/20 will withdraw the filing of its suit. Our patent differs significantly from that of 20/20, and we are conducting business as usual.”