Online refractions, are you ready?

…and it hasn’t really even started…I’m talking about online refractions and in its wake another wave – a wave of teleconference medicine will come and you better have your swim trunks on.

They are here to stay

Online refraction technology, like 1-800, Warby Parker and other telemedicine start-ups are here to stay and they all want to impress (my PC term for “steal”) your patients. Trust me, right now they suck but they will get much more accurate and, ultimately even better at refracting than me! 

I would be very concerned if I worked in a commercial setting! I see the writing on the wall – no candy coating things here; if I was a major optical retailer, I sure would seriously consider investing in and adopting the online refraction technology! It’s cheaper and comes with no HR nightmares.

All one has to do is look at Amazon’s consumer-centric retail delivery models to see the new norm.  Technologies that increase efficiency and lower costs will steamroll right over human jobs that get in the way.

Customer service is key

You cannot change this reality, you cannot keep the status-quo and expect to “make optometry great again” or “build a wall” to keep these technologies away. This gloom-and-doom scenario is scary, but don’t fret; there is light at the end of the phoropter for some of us.  

Listen closely, I’m not talking about another gadget, camera or expensive equipment the OD down the road does not have. I’m talking about value in the form of service. If you provide personal and professional value to every single patient every day, enhance your clinical and interpersonal skills and provide an experience you offer something refracting technologies can never offer, and something that can’t be replaced by technology.    

This is called “differentiation” and if you “differentiate yourself” by offering problem-solving solutions with a personal touch, you will not only survive professionally but will thrive.

The Achilles heel of companies selling contacts, eyeglasses and “services” like refractions online is their lack of providing true “healthcare”. Your smartphone cannot prescribe solutions for allergy, OSD and eye infections.

I have consulted people many times through the pictures they sent to my phone but trust me online retailers can NOT diagnose, treat, manage or counsel patients with cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration among other problems. 

In this disruptive and new-found era, OD’s must be comfortable in communicating and showcasing value by managing the patient, not by a refraction.

Be disruptive!

There is no doubt that our value as an optometrist is not a refraction, contacts or glasses. Our value is unique and irreplaceable IF we fully embrace the management of a patient’s comprehensive eye health and vision care. 

With the rising tide of an aging population, ripe with diabetes and obesity, the higher incidence of eye diseases including OSD is ours and only ours only if we embrace this new disruptive way of thinking.  

From the 40+ million ocular allergy sufferers to the 20+ million dry eye patients, add glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts among others and there is no question that online retail cannot deal with disease treatment and management. Let alone eye health awareness and counseling, this provides an opportunity to personalize and create a bond of trust and a sense of value in our professional knowledge that online delivery models cannot match.

So expand your clinical comfort level in diagnosing, treating and managing eye diseases. Build your clinical confidence and your communication skills. Immunize your career and hedge your bets by working on the value of YOU, the prescriber of eye health care solutions intertwined with vision care. This is the only strategy for success.