I am writing this on Back to the Future Day. For those too young to remember (or who are not on social media, which has been blowing up in the weeks leading to 10.21.2015), it’s the day in which Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown travel to the future in Part II of the Back to the Future trilogy.
What’s fascinating about the movie from 1989, and warranting much social media attention, is that some of the predictions about 2015 actually came true. Flat-screen TVs are mainstream, as are video conferencing (though we tend to chat on smaller screens), drones (though they don’t yet walk our dogs), and virtual reality glasses (though we don’t call them Phone Glasses.)
The point is, technology is continuing to bring us into the future””in ways we can and cannot imagine””which can only benefit the eyecare professional as well as the patient. Take Google Glass for instance. Even though the wearable eyewear hasn’t gained much traction, the technology has. Virtual reality glasses have been employed for sports, gaming, and industry use, opening up new worlds for those who wear the high-tech glasses, and creating new revenue streams for ECPs.
But one of the biggest advances in technology that is changing the eyecare industry in 2015 is due to one prediction that the film missed: smartphones. This is huge, considering nearly two-thirds of the people in the U.S. own smartphones. In the optometrist’s office, smartphones are shrinking the exam lane by turning the ubiquitous technology into handheld autorefractors, autolensometers, and more. There are apps for electronic health records and practice management; for lens calculators, such as base curve calculations and convergence; for measuring pupillary distance, segment height, and pantoscopic tilt for digital lenses; and virtual mirror apps so patients can try on frames from your online dispensary from the comfort of their own homes. Even Apple’s imaging quality is being co-opted for use in apps that capture high-resolution images to assist in-office diagnoses. The apps are coming out at such a pace that it’s not a stretch to call the iPhone an eyephone.
So what’s next? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, you can optimize today’s technology to best suit your practice. All of these smartphone tools afford the opportunity to bring your practice truly mobile whether you are shuffling between exam rooms or taking your practice on the road for community outreach or on missions.
Joanne Van Zuidam, Editor-in-Chief