The Intelligent Office

How new technologies are transforming the eyecare practice

By
By Andrew Karp: Group Editor

 
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Eyecare practices are now the nexus of a vast and rapidly growing information network that connects practitioners with patients, insurance companies, suppliers, doctor alliances and other medical professionals. Managing the ever expanding stream of data that flows through this network is one of the biggest challenges that eyecare practices currently face.

Employing technologies such as Electronic Health Records, mobile apps, social networks, exam and dispensing systems, kiosks, smartphones and tablets, eyecare practices are developing new ways to process and share information in the physical office, and, by extension, the virtual office. These high tech tools, when integrated with cloud computing and new types of Internet-based software, form the basis of a new business and medical model for delivering eyecare: The Intelligent Office. By leveraging the combined power of these technologies, Intelligent Offices are delivering a higher level of personalized eyecare along with greater operational efficiencies, often resulting in increased profits for the practice.

The Intelligent Office is constantly evolving as both patients and practitioners are taking advantage of new products and services to do everything from locate doctors to book appointments, send Electronic Health Records, learn about new surgical procedures, order eyeglasses, submit insurance claims and post reviews on social networks. A random sampling of new products and services illustrates how the Intelligent Office is taking shape.

In the Waiting Room

The advent of the iPad and other tablets is allowing practices to abandon clipboards and printed forms as a means of gathering patient data in the waiting room. For example, a new digital application from Solutionreach called PatientReach is simplifying the check-in process. Patients can use an iPad to update insurance information, read and sign legal forms and submit patient reviews. The digital intake provides legible documentation, ensuring accuracy and data validity. The paperless PatientReach method eliminates the need for printing, scanning and shredding documents previously distributed on a clipboard.

PatientReach also lets patients sign up for the online patient portal, where they can pay bills, schedule appointments, send or receive secure messages, and change their correspondence preferences at any time. Additionally, patients can select from a customized group of health care articles that are then e-mailed to the patient to read at their convenience. The articles engage patients with point-of-care education and encourage them to take a more active role in their health care.

IN the Exam Lane

Just as many practices are throwing away their clipboards in favor of tablets, so too are tablets and video screens replacing brochures as a means of educating patients about new products and medical procedures. One company that specializes in patient education, Eyemaginations, offers iPad apps, software and educational videos designed to help doctors present complex information to their patients in an engaging, easy-to-understand manner. Doctors use the company’s popular Luma software to show patients video clips about topics such as cataract surgery, implants, glaucoma, macular degeneration or contact lenses while the patients’ eyes are being dilated before an exam. Personal playlists can be created for each patient, depending on their needs or interests.

IN the Dispensary

Many opticians are now using multi-functional dispensing systems to measure patients for eyewear and let them virtually try on eyewear either in the dispensary or online. One such system is Optikam’s iPad-based OptikamPad, which captures personalized measurements for free-form lenses, assists with frame selection and demonstrates lenses. The system also offers augmented reality simulations of real-life situations such as office and outdoor scenes, which showcase the lens style and treatment options the patient has chosen compared to a lens without them. A “cloud sync” feature lets the dispenser access saved sessions from any iPad in their practice, manipulate measurement sessions from any iPad and back up data off-site.

Outside the Office

In the Intelligent Office, mobile apps are enabling patients and practitioners to interact with each other as well as access and share information. For example, EyeXam, a bi-directional mobile app and web platform developed by Global EyeVentures, in partnership with Eyefinity, is designed to help eye doctors connect with patients. The app offers features such as a doctor directory, a GPS-based doctor locator and avenues for communicating with EyeXam users, patient self-screening and the ability to share results and live chat with doctors’ offices. Patients can also manage appointments with the app and receive communications from their doctor, including reminders and targeted messages. Doctors can utilize a web-based dashboard to monitor app activity, access a list of everyone who has viewed the app, by e-mail address, and connect with app users.

Another new mobile app, MyRev from RevolutionEHR, lets doctors check their patient schedules and access patient information from their smartphone. The app allows doctors to have more flexible work time and a better focus on patients, minimizing the overlap between life and business, according to RevolutionEHR.

Practice Systems

The business office was the first area within the eyecare practice to be computerized, so it’s not surprising that some of the most advanced systems in the Intelligent Office are those used to manage the practice. Many different types of software and systems are available to help ECPs and office staff manage patient billing, inventory, payroll and other essential administrative functions.

Some systems now offer web-enabled features to allow the practice to capture and analyze patient metrics. One such program is ODLean Patient Experience, a new ODLean iPad application developed by The Vision Care Institute of Vistakon. ODLean Patient Experience is a diagnostic tool that allows eyecare practices to track patient flow, see in real-time where there are bottlenecks, and immediately make changes that will improve flow and efficiency. The application will send data to a web portal on www.ODLean.com—available in mid to late 2013—where subscribers can access their metrics.

The above examples illustrate a few of the ways in which new technologies are shaping the Intelligent Office. In the companion article, VM offers a detailed look at one important technology—Electronic Health Records (EHR)—and its impact on the Intelligent Office and patient care.

The Intelligent Office series will be accessible through a companion microsite on www.VisionMonday.com that will feature related articles, videos and other content. ■

akarp@jobson.com

 

STEP INTO THE INTELLIGENT OFFICE

Welcome to The Intelligent Office, a new series of Vision Monday articles that explores how eyecare practices and optical retail stores are using new technologies such as smartphones, tablets, apps and cloud computing to manage information with unprecedented speed and efficiency.

In this two-part introductory article, you’ll learn how new information systems and processes are facilitating communication between practices and patients, and between practices, insurance companies, suppliers and health care providers. You’ll also get an in-depth look at how one of the most significant technologies, Electronic Health Records (EHR)—is changing the way patients’ health information is shared via handheld devices and desktop computers, both with the patients themselves as well as with other practitioners. The rapid changes that are taking place in the waiting room to the exam lane, dispensary and back office—and even outside the practice—are transforming the delivery of eyecare.

To complement these articles we’re also creating an information rich Intelligent Office microsite coming your way next month. There you’ll find articles from the Intelligent Office series as well as links to related articles, videos and other content about mobile health, EHR, patient portals, patient education, diagnostic instruments, patient education, lens and dispensing technology, practice management, staff training and more.

Step into The Intelligent Office and learn how your practice or store can use advanced information technologies to improve performance and profits.

—The Editors