Should Your Optometry Practice Offer Virtual Eye Exams?

Highlights

  • Virtual eye exam services are growing in popularity among optometry practices and patients post COVID-19.
  • The AOA’s optometry telehealth guidelines encourage virtual eye exams as an alternative option for many optometrical services.
  • Optometry practices that offer virtual services can boost patient retention and revenue.
  • A cloud-based optometry EHR system supports practices in scheduling and communicating with patients who prefer telehealth services.

Virtual eye exams are on the rise in the optometry industry thanks to a nationwide push toward telehealth services post pandemic. Offering virtual eyecare services and eye exams online can boost your optometry practice’s revenue and help you attract and retain patients.

Review the American Optometric Association’s telehealth guidelines to ensure you provide high-level eyecare to your patients through virtual care services.

Rise of Telehealth Services in eyecare

Telehealth services have increased at every level of healthcare since the Covid-19 pandemic. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported a 63% increase in telehealth visits, and McKinsey & Company found that telehealth use increased 38% after the pandemic.

In 2020, the optometry industry experienced a tenfold increase in the use of telehealth services. According to Managed Healthcare Executive, 74% of under 40-year-olds surveyed regarding eyecare preferences said that access to virtual tools would encourage them to schedule routine eye exams.

Additionally, 38% of this group reported that remote communication factored highly into their motivation to seek eyecare.

These factors point to the growing importance of optometry practices, including virtual eye exams, to serve attract new patients and boost retention.

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Pros and Cons of Offering Virtual Eye Exams

Virtual eye exams offer both pros and cons for optometry practices. Many pros center around broader patient access to care, reduced expenses, and a higher efficiency level for certain eyecare services.

Cons include regulatory concerns, technological issues, and a lack of care continuity.

Pros of Virtual Eye Exams

Providing a virtual eye exam for contacts or glasses offers many benefits for your optometry practice. With virtual services, you can provide broader access to eyecare, allowing people to address eye health issues more conveniently and more frequently. While not all types of exams are possible with virtual services, offering remote screenings and follow-up care encourages better eye health for patients.

In addition to broader access to eyecare for patients, you can increase efficiency and cash flow for your practice. Offering eye exams online doesn’t require the time and effort that seeing a patient in person might. With an efficient telemedicine system in place, you may see more patients each day, increasing your overall cash flow.

Finally, by offering virtual services, you can cater to patient expectations, which can boost patient-provider relationships and help you attract and retain patients. According to McKinsey & Company, a significant portion of patients under 40 expect their healthcare providers to offer virtual services.

You can also cater to senior patients with eyecare by telemedicine. Healthcare IT News reports that more than half of seniors questioned in a recent survey said they would use general telemedicine services if offered.

Cons of Virtual Eye Exams

Despite the benefits of virtual eye exams for glasses and contacts, there are a few drawbacks to virtual care. Among the concerns are potential technological issues. Power outages, system errors, and other technical problems can cause disruption of an online treatment session. However, these issues are likely rare and won’t affect most of your online visits.

You may find that telemedicine eye exams don’t offer you the same connection with patients as in-practice appointments. To combat this issue and gain the advantages of virtual care, you can turn to tools like a cloud-based optometry EHR that offers patient communication tools to develop and maintain relationships with patients.

Another drawback to virtual care involves regulatory concerns, specifically HIPAA compliance and telemedicine coding. To offer virtual care, you’ll need to use HIPAA-compliant communication tools and access reliable optometry telemedicine coding resources to remain compliant with regulatory agencies.

Virtual Eye Exam Guidelines

The AOA developed a set of virtual eye exam guidelines in 2020. As you consider implementing virtual eyecare into your practice’s services, it’s helpful to review these guidelines and model virtual appointments after the AOA’s suggestions.

The following points present an overview of the AOA’s Position Statement Regarding Telemedicine In Optometry.

Standard of Care

The standard of care must remain consistent for virtual eye services and in-person services. You must offer the same level of care to patients who visit your office as those see you virtually.

Act on Behalf of the Patient

Providers must advocate for their patients and discuss all conditions and treatment options thoroughly when offering virtual care.

Patient Privacy

Online care patients are entitled to the same level of privacy regarding their eye health as those who visit your practice. You must use HIPAA-compliant messaging and video services to conduct virtual appointments.

Telemedicine Doesn’t Replace In-Person Care

The AOA refers to in-person care as the gold standard for eye exams for contacts and glasses. It recognizes that virtual services are valuable for gathering information, communicating with patients, and addressing diagnostic changes but cautions providers to encourage in-person care.

Licensure

To offer virtual services, you must hold the appropriate licensure and certifications for the geographical location of your practice.

Documentation

When performing virtual eyecare services, you must maintain proper visit documentation, just as you do for in-office visits. Document medication changes, testing results, care plans, and other records and share them with the patient through HIPAA-compliant means.

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Support Your Practice’s Virtual Eye Exam Services With a Modern Optometry EHR

Virtual eye exams are an essential tool for offering patients access to quality eyecare. Support your virtual eyecare services with a modern, cloud-based optometry EHR system like RevolutionEHR.

RevolutionEHR is an all-in-one system with highly customizable features that help you schedule patients for online and in-person appointments. It also offers automated patient communication tools that will help you stay connected with your virtual patients.

Request a demo today to discover how RevolutionEHR can support your practice’s virtual eyecare services and give you the freedom to focus on optimizing patient care.

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