With about 20 percent of physicians reporting that they currently use telehealth to service patients—up from only about 5 percent in 2015—telehealth adoption has been expanding rapidly across the healthcare spectrum, doubling every three years. According to a survey by American Well, growing physician willingness to use telehealth promises to lead to a significant increase in telehealth exams over the next several years.
Some healthcare specialties have seen more telehealth adoption than others. A recent AMA study, for example, found that telehealth use is most common among radiologists, psychiatrists, and cardiologists.
So, what about eyecare providers? Traditionally not known for their early adoption of technology, many are beginning to change their early views of telehealth, as they learn more about its ability to support the delivery of quality eye care. Independent eyecare providers are beginning to see the potential benefits of ocular telehealth not only for their patients but also for their practices.
Following are some of the key reasons eyecare providers should consider incorporating telehealth into their practice.
1. Telehealth gives your patients greater access to comprehensive eye exams. With its ability to provide convenient, cost-effective care, ocular telehealth makes it possible to expand the reach of quality eye care to patients who don’t have convenient access. With doctor shortages, telehealth is a solution that enables providers to reach patients who are underserved, especially in remote and rural locations. Even in urban locations, telehealth provides a convenient option for patients who find it difficult to fit eye exams into their busy schedules.
2. Telehealth makes it possible to increase your exam volume. Telehealth can help you serve more patients by expanding your hours of exam coverage to include evenings and weekends. You can even continue offering exam services when you are out of the office on vacation, attending CE, or other business/personal obligations. And you can do it all without experiencing significant increases in overhead costs.
3. Telehealth can improve patient satisfaction. Based on our experience at 20/20NOW, we find that most patients rate their telehealth exam experience as good as or better than an in-person eye exam. This is consistent with industry research, which has shown that the popularity of telehealth is a direct result of consumer demand for convenient, quality, and affordable healthcare. Recent research from Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, showed that not only do patients appreciate the convenience offered by telehealth platforms, they also perceive the quality of care to be the same or better than an office visit. And it’s not just tech-savvy younger patients who are attracted to telehealth. Older patients are just as likely to give them a try. In fact, a recent poll from The Associated Press found that nearly 90 percent of adults age 40 and older would be comfortable using telehealth for themselves or an aging loved one. Yet another study of glaucoma patients 60 years of age and older found that nearly one-half of respondents had favorable attitudes about using telehealth for their glaucoma care.
4. Telehealth can be used for much more than routine vision tests. The capabilities of telehealth have advanced significantly from its original objective of refracting patients to issue prescriptions for eyewear. By leveraging new technologies and equipment, advanced ocular telehealth solutions can enable doctors to deliver a similar standard of care to in-person exams—and in some cases, a superior standard of care. For example, through the use of AI technology, telehealth systems such as 20/20NOW can help doctors identify lesions that are typically undetectable to the human eye to provide early diagnoses of critical eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy and other retinal disease. Recent research cited in Review of Optometry concluded that telemedicine shows great promise for early detection and screening for glaucoma because of its ability to capture fundus and optic disc images at convenient locations. According to the researchers, “[e]merging ophthalmic imaging technologies will likely revolutionize future practice-based and community-based eye screening models.”
5. Telehealth can make your practice more efficient. Eyecare providers spend inordinate amounts of time gathering data and visual images in the process of diagnosing and treating patients. Sophisticated telehealth solutions that incorporate AI use deep learning to develop algorithms for detecting eye diseases in a fraction of the time it would take with a manual process. And, for practitioners who are working at capacity, workflow can be eased by using telehealth to perform some services.
6. Telehealth can improve your work-life balance. Not only can telehealth expand your practice, it can help you enhance your lifestyle. Some eyecare provider are already using telehealth to help them work from home a few days a week. These new models are enabling them to save operating costs, too.
When you consider all the potential benefits it can bring to your practice, can you afford not to consider adopting telehealth?
Why not see ocular telehealth live and in person? To arrange a live demo of 20/20NOW technology, contact us today.Back to Blogs