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A World Gone Digital: Action Steps for Optometric Practices

By ROB Editors

June 1, 2016

Excerpted from the newly published 2016 version of Vision Source’s Navigation Guide to MEGATRENDS in Eyecare Practice: A 20-page report outlining marketing forces and consumer behavior affecting the profession now and in the future. Included are implications for ODs and action steps to capture opportunities.

Digital communication technology is revolutionizing how consumers interact with retailers and medical providers, including optometrists.

Over the past 20 years, the emergence and proliferation of digital devices have made them major vehicles for personal communication between individuals and between businesses and customers. These devices have become the primary tool people use to gather information and are increasingly used to purchase a wide range of goods and services. It is certain that digital devices will become even more widely used in the future and may eventually make obsolete traditional communication methods.

Here is an overview of the status of the digital revolution in the U.S.:

• Nearly nine-in-10 households have internet access at home. Some 73 percent of adults are online on a daily basis. Only among the elderly is internet access and usage somewhat lower.

• Some 86 percent of adults 18-29 years of age own a smartphone, compared to 68 percent of all adults.

• In 2014, online retail sales totaled $305 billion, accounting for 8.3 percent of U.S. total retail sales (excluding food and auto sales).

• Some 85-90 percent of adults purchase products online.

Implications for Optometry

Patients prefer mobile. Patients will increasingly prefer to use mobile digital devices as primary communications vehicles with personal service providers, including optometric practices.

Patients “window shop” online. Patients will increasingly preview eyewear online before purchase, make price comparisons, and purchase eyewear and contact lenses
online.

Increase competition from corporate ODs. Commercial eyecare providers will pioneer digital applications to facilitate refractions, capture purchases of managed care patients, increase eyewear and contact lens purchase frequency and capture rate. The effect will be to improve the patient experience at corporate providers.

Digital devices will be used in your office. Digital devices will increasingly be used to fit advanced eyewear and conduct refractions in-office.

Patients want to fill out forms online. Patients will prefer to complete medical history and lifestyle questionnaires with digital devices.

Patients want to access their records online. Patients will gain online access to exam records and treatment plans.

Patients want to be educated by their ODs via digital. ECPs who use digital devices extensively to educate, refract and manage patients will be regarded by patients as technically advanced, enhancing ECP reputations for medical competence.

Action Steps

Upgrade the practice web site

? Convey a distinctive, patient-centric practice mission.
? Offer appointment-making and medical history functionality.

? Showcase new products.
? Offer product purchase functionality.
? Update regularly with practice and product news.
? Optimize the site for mobile devices.

Connect to patients with mobile communications. Fully utilize e-mail and text communications in recall, marketing and appointment confirmation.

Provide an online patient portal through your EHR. Enable patient online access to medical records.

Diagnose and treat digital eye fatigue syndrome. Actively ask patients about their use of digital devices—and let them know you can ease eye strain with techniques and optical devices you offer.

Create a more convenient office experience. Facilitate patient check-in with mobile devices.

Reach out to patients on social media sites. Use social media to market the practice.

Enable online “try on” of eyewear. Adopt digital try-on and ophthalmic lens measurement technology.

Offer online refraction. Stay current with online refraction.

Read up on your patients’ preferences. Read “The Patient Will See You Now” by Eric Topol for an insightful discussion of the future impact of the digital revolution on medical practice.

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