With its ability to revolutionize modern health care, telehealth is a major driver of the healthcare industry’s wide-ranging digital transformation. And when it comes to vision care, telehealth is gaining popularity amongst patients and practitioners alike for the same reasons as it is in the medical field: potential cost savings, greater access to care, increased flexibility and convenience and enhanced care through the ability to diagnose and treat eye conditions in less time.
However, despite its benefits, there are also several constraints and disadvantages that should be accounted for when considering the telehealth model for the eye care industry.
Here, we’ll go over both the good and the bad about telehealth in vision care.
Driving broader access to eye care
When people have issues accessing eye care services, this can result in serious, undiagnosed eye diseases and ailments, along with poor outcomes. By giving people the ability to obtain eye care remotely, telehealth helps to solve this issue. From online eye exams to remote screenings for diabetic retinopathy, telehealth offers new ways for patients (particularly those living in rural or remote areas or who, otherwise, are not able to visit a provider) to access high-quality eye care services that can help them maintain, and even save, their vision.
Potentially decreasing costs and encouraging frequent care
Decreased fixed costs (doctor day rates, for example), increased efficiency and flexibility of scheduling (allowing for greater exam capacity) are factors that could potentially reduce the overall cost of a comprehensive eye exam. If telehealth results in lower exam costs for patients, and is covered by insurance plans, we might well see an increase in the frequency with which people seek eye care, giving providers the ability to help their patients maintain clear, healthy vision for life.
Meeting the preferences of connected consumers
In today’s tech-centric world, telehealth caters to the digital preferences of the modern, empowered, connected consumer. It offers greater convenience and much more streamlined care for busy patients, even if they reside in areas where they have relatively easy access to eye care providers.
Plus, the benefits of telehealth speak to younger and older patients alike. In fact, a recent survey of 400 seniors (aged 65 or older) revealed that more than half are willing to use telehealth, noting access to quicker healthcare service, as well as time and money savings, as the biggest drivers.
As in other medical fields, technological breakdowns and glitches are usually the most common barrier to telehealth in vision care. And unfortunately, no technology is completely problem-free. When patients schedule their virtual visits with an optometrist, it can be frustrating to find out that their remote exam can’t be conducted due to a network error, connection issue or other technological snag.
Continuity of care
With telehealth in vision care, patients are sometimes seen on a first-come, first-served basis, which can negatively impact the traditional patient-doctor relationship. The long-term relationship between patients and doctors gives practitioners the opportunity to develop a better sense of a patient’s overall lifestyle and take into consideration other factors that may help create more individualized diagnoses and treatment plans.
In the telehealth sector, there are regulatory concerns around licensing and credentialing. Regulation and legislation vary between states and are not occurring as fast as technological development. In this rapidly-evolving landscape, eye care providers (that have or are setting up telehealth programs) need to stay on top of changing standards of care and regularly review current regulations in the jurisdictions they operate in.
For both patients and eye care practitioners, telehealth in vision care offers a lot of opportunities to improve and extend care services. However, at this time, it does have certain limitations that could affect an eye care provider’s practice and the relationships they hold with their patients.
At OCLI, we believe in using the latest technology to help us better serve our patients. And we always ensure that anything we implement enables us to give our patients a greater experience, with the personalized touch they are used to receiving from us.
To learn more about our practice and the comprehensive services we provide, contact us today.