LAS VEGAS—Results from the inaugural CooperVision Best Practices EYEdea Lab, which was designed to help ECPs improve patient experiences and remain competitive amidst disruptive health care purchasing trends, were presented late last month during a panel session at the Global Contact Lens Forum at Vision Expo West here. The EYEdea Lab initiative combined qualitative research from the floor of Optometry’s Meeting in June with follow-on quantitative consumer and ECP research. In the EYEdea Lab, the Best Practices honorees tackled the question: Are patients placing a lower value on the in-office eye exam experience, looking instead for automated procedures?

Through discussions on the show floor, the ECPs learned patients very much value the personal, in-office experience and seek help in making eyecare decisions in collaboration with their ECPs, according to the announcement. Furthermore, the honorees learned that patients choose to visit their practices for something different than what’s available online, making it important not to try to duplicate the online experience in the office.

Two primary, data-backed insights emerged, according to a CooperVision announcement this week. They are:

• The doctor-patient relationship remains essential to consumers, with technology advancements viewed as enhancing, but not replacing, the in-person experience.

• Consumers are wary of in-office experiences that place too much of a focus on ancillary products and amenities, creating opportunities for ECPs to more intently focus on transparent, efficient and personalized eyecare.

“Navigating the rapid and significant changes in the eyecare industry is a common topic of discussion among the ECPs with whom we partner,” Michele Andrews, OD, senior director of professional and academic affairs, North America, said in the announcement. “Best Practices celebrates practices that continue to grow and succeed in this environment. As part of that commitment, we wanted to give honorees—the best of the best—an opportunity to help their peers and advance the profession, giving rise to the EYEdea Lab.”

Three Best Practices honorees joined Dr. Andrews on the panel: Carrie Alfieri, OD, of Pinnacle Eye Associates in McKinney, Texas; Roxanna Potter, OD, FAAO, of Personal Eyecare in Sylvania, Ohio; and Shauna Thornhill, OD, of Amarillo Vision Specialists in Amarillo, Texas. Dr. David Ricketts, Innovation Fellow at Harvard University, facilitated the EYEdea Lab.

Quantitative survey results supported the group’s findings, with 92 percent of ECPs believing that their patients perceive more value when there is more technology incorporated into the exam process. Still, 82 percent of ECPs consider online refraction a threat to their practices.

The industry concern over online refraction runs counter to consumer beliefs, as illustrated in a new CooperVision survey of U.S adults, according to the announcement. When asked about the accuracy of online eye tests compared to in-person eye exams, 66 percent of consumers believe online testing to be less accurate, and 20 percent are unsure, revealing an opportunity for ECPs to continually educate patients about the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and in-office exams, according to the announcement.

“Our patients have a set of expectations about the online experience that are different than their expectations for an in-person exam,” said Dr. Alfieri. “They value the interpersonal relationship with their doctor and staff, the knowledge and input of that team, and they view technology as an enhancement to the in-person experience—not a replacement.”

“While some consumers are curious about new technology, the majority trust their ECPs to give them the best care and advice, and truly appreciate the value of their eye doctors’ expertise,” added Dr. Thornhill. “It is an important reminder that patients are looking for that interpersonal engagement, and we need to find the right way to incorporate technology into our practices.”

Dr. Potter said the research findings could be put into practice by minimizing tedious, non-essential tasks for patients, such as intake paperwork or excessive movement between stations and exam rooms. This will allow for more personal attention and time for discussion. “Consider assigning a specific staff member to escort each patient from the time they arrive to when they leave, giving them a very personal contact in addition to the doctor,” Potter said in the announcement.