As the year hits its stride, optometry practices are seeing opportunities for strategic growth, a more profound connection with patients, and the ability to diversify their areas of expertise. Recent changes to business practises have forced practitioners to see fewer patients per day, increasing the opportunity to spend more time on each exam. A more intensive and thorough exam benefits both the patient, with better treatment, and the practitioner, who can increase revenue by offering additional necessary screening.
If you’re not already screening for dry eye disease, now is a great time to start doing so, especially when you consider the increasing incidence of this debilitating condition worldwide and the sophisticated technology available to help manage it.
Approximately 352 million people around the world are affected by dry eye disease (DED),1 and we can expect more to follow due to an aging global population, a rapid increase in computer usage, and mask-wearing.
Despite this, only a small percentage of those with DED are actively treated.
This multifactorial disease is characterised by a vicious cycle of compounding issues leading to the loss of homeostasis. While some patients describe a sandy or gritty sensation, others liken DED to the feeling of burning and stinging. These sensations are typically coupled with the perception of tired eyes and blurry vision. Regardless of the descriptive words, DED negatively impacts people’s daily lives and, many times, limits their activities. Additionally, DED can impact necessary surgical procedures because it damages the integrity of the ocular surface.
Fortunately, optometrists’ ability to diagnose and treat DED is improving with increasingly sophisticated technology.
Recognising DED as a medical condition validates the patient experience and provides compelling evidence for the need to diagnose, subtype, and manage it. A streamlined visit, wherein a DED screen is completed within the exam scope, benefits the patient, as early diagnosis and treatment lead to better outcomes. Most patients that present with DED have a combination of meibomian gland disease (MGD) and aqueous deficiency.
INVESTING IN DRY EYE DISEASE
Investing in the right tools is integral to building and sustaining any successful optometry practice.
The careful selection of a few quality multifunctional devices that can be used for diagnosing and managing a number of ocular conditions will enable you to maximise outcomes for more patients, and your return on investment, while minimising the space required in your consulting room.
Devices such as the medmont meridia Advanced Topographer are efficient, easy to use, and empower practitioners to manage speciality fit contact lenses as well as complete multiple tests, including tear break-up time, tear-meniscus measurements, meibography, and anterior imaging. This device also enables in-depth diagnostics and a complete workup for even the most severe DED cases, benefiting practitioners and patients alike.
Indeed, Dr Eric To, optometrist and owner of Lumen Optometric (California), says the insights the meridia provides to his office are “incomparable”.
“Precise and detailed imaging enhances confidence in my clinical decision-making, both in diagnosis and treatment,” said the Fellow of the Scleral Lens Society. “The comprehensive visual imagery and metrics enable me to more successfully measure our patients’ progress.”
Jessica Chi, optometrist and President of the Cornea and Contact Lens Society in Victoria, says she too has been impressed by the capacity of the device to improve patient outcomes, especially in challenging times.
“Medmont’s new meridia Advanced Topographer has allowed me to operate my practice more efficiently at a time when I, like most practitioners, have had to change the way we do things due to COVID-19,” Ms Chi told mivision.
“It’s a high-end tool that is both cost and space effective, combining three or four machines into one. Now that it gives me the ability to offer dry eye screening, it has further enhanced my practice’s efficiency – my techs and other practitioners in my office are able to do full dry eye assessments in minutes,” she added.
Jagrut Lallu, optometrist, owner of Rose Optometry in Hamilton, New Zealand, and President of his country’s Cornea and Contact Lens Society, agrees.
“The new additions of the larger fieldof- view, (sodium fluorescein) NaFL photos and videos, and the dry eye and miebography options in one device, offer many features that previously needed multiple machines,” he said.
“Whereas we typically relied on the presentation of symptoms, the data provided in examinations presents a clear record for practitioners to track progress. The luminance is good for viewing meibomian gland orifices, and it’s also easy to get clear views of lenses. As I can do more in the same amount of time, it improves my capture time for various tests.
“In New Zealand, units that have all this functionality can cost considerably more, so there are savings in having it built into one unit,” Mr Lallu added.
POWER OF DIFFERENTIATION
DED treatment is very patient-specific and often long term. Discussions about family history, current environment, computer usage, and hobbies, in addition to keeping records of systemic conditions and medications, help strengthen the practitioner and patient relationship, and identify opportunities for preventative action. Patients may use terms like blurry, foggy, hazy, watery, and burning, but not necessarily dry. Practitioners may better detect these symptoms by integrating standardised questionnaires into the examination and reviewing them alongside reports with the patient.
The medmont meridia Advanced Topographer has been credited with providing reports that enable a patient to easily see and understand how DED affects their eyes, vision, and overall health. This reduces time required by the practitioner to explain the condition, freeing them up to talk with the patient about more preventative measures.
As practitioners increase patient trust through transparent communication, they can offer valuable insight into the effectiveness of strategies being implemented to manage their condition. This can help maintain treatment compliance, especially when supported by a follow-up protocol that involves two to four annual appointments.
DED sufferers may be asymptomatic, making it even more important to be able to help them understand that their vision potential and eye comfort is directly correlated with the health of their ocular surface.
“If we can communicate with them, and demonstrate how the environment, their behaviour, and DED management is directly affecting their eye health, we can really start to make a difference,” said Ms Chi. “In this day and age that’s really important. Establishing a rapport with patients who will buy-in, not only to treatments but to preventative measures, is worth the financial investment of a top-of-the-line device – it helps us deliver long-term benefits to the patient and our practice,” she added.
“Treatment compliance is integral in diminishing the long term effects of untreated eye disease like dry eye,” said Dr To. “I’ve found that our patients are more compliant in treatment strategies when we have access to real-time visual dry eye summaries, proven grading scales, and highly detailed patient reports.”
TAKE A PROACTIVE APPROACH
Eye inflammation, abrasion of the corneal surface, corneal ulcers, vision loss, plus an overall decrease in quality of life are just a few of the side effects of untreated DED.
To minimise, or even eliminate, these lifealtering side effects, add DED screening and monitoring with a focus on your patient’s health at every age. With the right tools and a listening ear, DED can be managed and treated with proper diagnosis and routine care.
John Bond is the Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing for Medmont International. He is an accomplished results-driven marketing leader with comprehensive global experience in product management and commercial marketing in healthcare IT, system solutions, and medical device/high tech industries.
- Market Scope 2017 Global Dry Eye Report