By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
March 24, 2021
Four major trends will impact optometric practices over the next three years. Here are those trends and how your practice can best capture the related new opportunities that will be opening up.
This article will look at how these four areas will impact our practices over the next three years: AI, edge computing, 5G and decentralized finance.i What changes do you need to make to ensure your practice is ready for these changes? As you read this article, think about how these trends will change your business and how these trends may disrupt your business.
Artificial intelligence is one of the most powerful trends we need to both understand and track. Areas in our practices that will be affected by AI are:
• Diagnosis and treatment assistance (Smart Assistant)
• Coding and billing assistance (Smart Assistant)
• Education and training (Smart Assistant)
• Telephone assistance (Chatbots)
• Retail technology (Analyze data from cameras and sensors to reinvent the shopping experience and drive new efficiencies)
• Practice management (Big data analysis)
Of the six areas listed above, all of them are available today. All of them will improve what happens in our practices, yet how many of them have been implemented in the practice now?
Demand on your server infrastructure is increasing as we rely on computing more and more. Constant streaming video, from capturing patient contact lens movement during fitting examinations to using AI for its many applications, results in higher demand on our computers and servers.
As we move toward more computer-intensive and latency-sensitive experiences we will eventually surpass what can be achieved with just our in-office computer and server systems and past what can be handled by traditional centralized cloud architectures.
The new approach is called Edge Computing or Edge Architectures.
“Edge computing is a distributed computing framework that brings enterprise applications closer to data sources such as IoT devices or local edge servers. This proximity to data at its source can deliver strong business benefits, including faster insights, improved response times and better bandwidth availability.”ii
“Edge architectures and technologies will be an essential component of innovative products and services.”iii
Talk with your IT providers to determine when you need to make changes in this area.
5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks. Cellular phone companies began deploying 5G worldwide in 2019. It is designed to replace the current 4G networks which provide connectivity to most current cellphones. (4G cellphones are not able to use the new 5G networks.)
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The main advantage of 5G networks is greater bandwidth resulting in higher download speeds (eventually up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbit/s)). The expectation is that the 5G networks will not exclusively be used for cell phones, but will also be used for computers. This makes possible new applications in the Internet of Things (IoT).
This is another discussion you should have with your IT provider to determine when you need to make changes in this area.
Cryptocurrencies definitely fit into this category and that affects how patients pay their bills. One of the core tenets of practice management is to make it easy for patients to do business with you. No longer is cash, check, MasterCard or Visa enough to make it easy for patients to do business with you. Adding cryptocurrencies can be a practice builder by attracting a new category of patients.
Another part of Decentralized Finance is the shift toward individual investor empowerment. Most of the traditional brokerages (eg: Schwab, TD Ameritrade) have dropped commissions and fees for trading stocks. Combine this knowledge with the new robo-trading solutions that outperform stockbrokers and hedge funds, and the future trend for investing is clear.