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NEW YORK—Slightly more than four in 10 (41.2 percent) eyecare professionals who responded to a Jobson Optical Research survey said they expect to be "up and running" their practices immediately once given the required regulatory approvals and go-ahead. And three in 10 (29.9 percent) said they believe they could reopen “within one week” of receiving the official go-ahead, according to the results of the Jobson survey released today. These were among the findings of Wave 7 of Jobson Optical Research’s ECP Coronavirus Study.

The survey of ECPs, designed to help the optical market better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the eyecare profession, was completed over the April 24-27 period by 922 professionals.

About two-thirds (66 percent) of the respondents identified themselves as optometrists, and a similar number (67.7 percent) said they are the practice owner or decision-maker in terms of access and closing offices.

Other respondents to the survey included 27 percent opticians/dispensers, 1.2 percent technicians, and 5.3 percent of respondents who identified as “other” professions. The number of female and male respondents split about equally (50.3 percent compared with 49.7 percent, respectively).

Two-thirds (68.9 percent) of respondents represented practices with a single location, while 18.5 percent operated in practices with two or three locations. Almost one in 10 respondents (8.4 percent) said they practice in a group with more than 10, while 4.2 percent practice in a setting with four to 10 locations.

Wave 7 of the survey asked, for the first time, how many more weeks the practice could survive without being permitted to reopen. More than 40 percent of respondents estimated the practice could survive no more than four weeks under these circumstances, with 12.7 percent estimating “survival” of only one to two weeks, and 30.2 percent putting the survival period at three to four weeks.

However, 34.3 percent said their practice could survive one to two months, 11.6 percent put the survival period at three to four months and 11.2 percent of respondents said their practice could survive longer than four months.

Upon reopening of the practice, 87.1 percent of respondents said they expect to reduce the number of people in the office at the same time (compared with 80.1 percent who said this in Wave 6) and 85.4 percent said they expect to change the sanitization process (compared with 76.1 percent in Wave 6) upon reopening.

Wave 7 results also reaffirmed the growing interest and utilization of telehealth services, with 70.2 percent of respondents indicated that they had billed for telehealth services within the last two weeks. This compares with 65.1 percent and 56.1 percent of respondents who indicated they had billed for telehealth in the previous two weeks in Wave 6 and 5, respectively.

Patient interest in accessing telehealth services remained relatively stable at 41.4 percent (compared with 42.6 percent and 38.7 percent in the previous two waves of the survey).

Among Wave 7 respondents, 83.9 percent said they would ask patients if they had been infected with coronavirus, take the body temperature of patients and/or ask other screening questions. This was an increase from 74.6 percent who responded similarly in Wave 6.

Another new question in Wave 7 asked about planned changes to the exam procedures. The most likely changes are installation of breath shields around the slit lamp (84.5 percent) and asking contact lens patients to insert lenses themselves (60.6 percent). In the dispensary, 90.6 percent of respondents said they expect to disinfect the area after each visitor, 94 percent said they expect to clean each frame after a patients tries it on, and 61.8 percent of respondents said they expect to limit the dispensary to one visitor at a time.

About one-third of respondents (35.3 percent) said they expect to keep frames out of reach from patients.

Asked about which body or group should determine any new guidelines for safety and/or sanitation within eyecare practices, 41.9 percent of respondents said they believe it should be the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that is most appropriate to do this, while 24.9 percent gave the nod to the American Optometric Association (AOA).

A key question, which was asked for a second time in Wave 7, addressed whether the practice plans to reopen or “are you more likely to need to close for good?” Only 1.6 percent of respondents (down from 2.1 percent in Wave 6) said they will “likely need to close for good,” with 93 percent planning to reopen (compared with 91.7 percent in Wave 6).

Another repeat question asked respondents if they had been tested for coronavirus, with 0.9 percent responding yes-positive (compared with 0.7 percent in Wave 6), and 96.3 percent said they had yet to be tested (compared with 96.6 percent in Wave 6).

The results of Wave 7 of the Jobson ECP Coronavirus Study are available to be downloaded for no charge here