ONE-TO-ONE: HOWARD S. FRIED, OD

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Earlier this year, DigitalOptometrics LLC, an optical technology company, launched its Tele-Optometry remote comprehensive eye health exam system. The system offers patients comprehensive eye examinations, performed by licensed optometrists at remote locations from the optical exam site. By using live video conferencing between doctor and patient, an in-person comprehensive eye exam is performed by harnessing current technology. Howard S. Fried, OD, founder and president of DigitalOptometrics, shared some thoughts about telemedicine and optometry.

Jeffrey Eisenberg: Is telemedicine, as with this system, the future of optometry?

Howard Fried, OD: Yes, this is definitely the future of optometry. I think the future of optometry is here.

Many optical establishments are having a difficult time finding ODs. This could be utilized not necessarily as a standalone, but as a supplement to whatever anyone has for OD coverage. It could be utilized for low-volume offices that don’t want the fixed cost of a doctor every day. It could be utilized for higher-volume locations that want to be able to supplement their existing ODs in their schedules so that they can have extended hours of coverage when the ODs are not present. Private practitioners who want to expand into a second or third practice but could never do so because they couldn’t be in three places at the same time now can be, because they can be the remote doctor for their own practices. Let’s say you have a number of locations, and you only want to use your own doctors. You can do that, or you can use our doctors or a combination of the two.

JE: Are doctors also using this if they note suspicious findings and want a consult? Do they use the system to refer a patient for further treatment?

HF: Yes. When the exam sites register on the system, they indicate to whom their referrals are going, who their glaucoma specialist is or cornea or retina specialist. They put that information into the system one time at the beginning. Then, if they see something with their patients, there’s a button that they press called the referral button. They might say, “Okay, we need a glaucoma specialist,” or “Increased pressures in the eye.”

The system would actually go ahead and print out all the patient records, along with a cover letter. The remote optometrist will go ahead and write down some notes for the referring doctor to indicate that the patient has elevated intraocular pressures, and then that cover letter, along with all the patient records, is given to the patient so they can go to that referring doctor. This way, the exam sites control who their patients are going to from a referral standpoint.

Ours is a comprehensive eye exam in which there’s an actual live interaction between optometrist and patient. We don’t sell refractive-only solutions. We only sell comprehensive packages. It has to be comprehensive.

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