By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
May 12, 2021
COVID-19 is still impacting eyecare practices, according to Wave 22 of Jobson Optical Research’s COVID-19 ECP impact survey. Here are the major findings followed by important actions to take to better position your practice for current challenges while planning for the future.
Wave 1 ran from Mar 13-17, 2020. Today, we are going to explore Wave 22, which covered Apr 2021. These are the highlights:
Ninety-eight percent of practices are open with 32 percent allowing walk-ins for exams and 63 percent allowing walk-ins for dispensing/eyewear purchases. Those are the highest numbers over the 22 weeks of the survey.
Fifty-four percent of the respondents said “YES” to the question: Has anyone who works at your location gotten COVID-19? That’s the highest number over the 22 weeks of the survey, but that is expected because this number is additive.
Only 29 percent of practices currently offering telemedicine services said they have plans to integrate telemedicine into the practice on a regular basis. That’s down from the top number of 90 percent during the height of the pandemic. Only 13 percent of practices report that they have billed for telemedicine services in the last two weeks. Wave 21 had the lowest number here at 12 percent. The highest number here, 70 percent, occurred in the April 24-27, 2020, survey.
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Seventy-eight percent of respondents have noticed more patients having issues due to increased screen time with 76 percent noticing these changes occurring with both children and adults.
Eighteen percent have noticed ocular changes in patients who had COVID-19. (Conjunctivitis was identified in about one-third of patients hospitalized with COVIDi while macular nodules were reported in a French Society of Neuroradiology study of 129 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 who underwent brain MRIs published Feb. 16, 2021, in the journal Radiology.)
Seventy-seven percent have had eyeglass-wearing patients complain about lenses fogging up when wearing a mask.
Seventy-five percent believe their practice has the capacity to serve more patients (the average being about 26 percent more patients) than they are currently seeing now. The practices that do not believe their practice has the capacity to serve more patients than they are seeing now give the following reasons as to why:
The year-over-year comparison data tell an interesting story. Practices are struggling to get back to their 2019 numbers. They are almost there, but still have work to do.
The two areas in the chart above that practices should focus on are PROFITABILITY PER PATIENT and CAPTURE RATE.
Based on the respondents’ answers, expect live event trade shows to have significantly reduced attendance this year, however, 60 percent said they are comfortable having reps visit the office again.
Keeping hygiene protocols and virtual sales calls post-COVID wasn’t that unexpected. Even 50 percent of practices staying with office visits by appointment-only was not a surprise.
We agree with about 50 percent of the respondents that trade shows, continuing education and virtual/in-person meetings may have changed forever due to the pandemic. As the country is opening back up, it is interesting that 36 percent of respondents say they don’t plan to attend any live events for the foreseeable future.
Seventy-nine percent of the respondents have been vaccinated already. Here are the reasons from the respondents who have not been vaccinated as to the reasons for why not:
Some doctors and staff have not been vaccinated. This is new territory for healthcare in general, and eyecare as a profession. The legal issues surrounding this situation are being explored as you read this. HERE is an article by Pamela Miller, OD, FAAO, JD, FNAP, an attorney as well as an optometrist, that discusses this issue.
These surveys help us see the change in opinions as our distance from the height of the pandemic increases. They also help us identify areas in the practice we need to consider for management changes.
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From this most recent Jobson survey data, here are the three areas that jump out to us as needing immediate attention:
• Increasing efficiency in patient flow to be able to see more patients per day.
• Improving PROFITABILITY PER PATIENT and CAPTURE RATE.
• Addressing the lens fogging issue with patients.
Take this week to put action plans in place to address the issues that are most important to you in your practice.