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CONTACT LENS PRACTICE PEARLS

TELEMEDICINE—IT’S HERE TO STAY

So far, 2020 has not been the year of eye care of which we had dreamed. Every eyecare practice has faced challenging decisions regarding how to serve patients safely and how to make ends meet. One of the biggest evolutions in how practitioners are reaching patients is through telemedicine, a venue completely new to many in the profession. Telemedicine has been a protective measure to guard the health of our patients and ourselves. But, while many learned to use it during a pandemic, can we continue to incorporate telemedicine post-COVID-19?

Good for Patients

Every practice has a sweet Mrs. Jones. She lives two hours away, and her daughter drives her. If Mrs. Jones has a chronic condition such as dry eye, couldn’t we save her a trip or two every year by offering her a televisit? Or what about patients who come to the office months after a problem started because they underwent a major surgery, and the recovery and other doctor visits kept them from having the eye condition evaluated? Those patients would be grateful for the opportunity to have a video consult from home.

Do patients see their pediatrician, their primary care practitioner, or urgent care for conjunctivitis because they don’t know that you treat it or because they think that getting an appointment at your office would be difficult? Use telehealth marketing to remind your patients that any change in their eye health is a reason to see you, and it’s never been easier or more convenient to be seen. All that they need is a computer or a smartphone.

Good for Our Practices

Consider the patients who have been the least challenging to evaluate using video in this time of telemedicine necessity. The pandemic coincided with allergy season, which meant that many patients seeking care for red, itchy eyes could tell us and show us that they had red, itchy eyes, and we felt confident prescribing an allergy medication. What about a red, tender eyelid? With video and a good history, a hordeolum is easily recognized. The lowest-hanging fruit of all is the subconjunctival hemorrhage—forever frightening patients while idiopathically the most benign of conditions. Staff fielding emergency calls could triage for these types of conditions, and brief telehealth visits could be scheduled in the gaps of your day. This could be a win for your practice by incorporating extra potential for billable encounters, and patients may also appreciate the convenience.

Incorporate follow-up care, with the understanding that any symptoms not responding to treatment within an expected timeline warrant an in-office visit. Consider patients who call with many follow-up questions after having a full office visit. Value your time, and offer these patients a telehealth visit that makes your extra time spent billable.

Ongoing Benefits

In a time when many patients want an app to do their eye exam, we have the opportunity to be progressive, to utilize technology, to stay connected with our patients, and to teach them what can be done safely from home and what needs to remain protected as in-office care. CLS