Interview With Howard Fried, Optometrist and Founder Of DigitalOptometrics, a Tele-Optometric Company
What is your background in optometry?
I received my Doctor of Optometry degree from SUNY State College of Optometry in 1996 following my obtaining an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University.
What did you do prior to forming DigitalOptometrics?
After graduating from Optometry school, I owned and operated multiple optical retail superstores within Macy’s Department Stores. In addition, I owned and operated a commercial optical laboratory that produced prescription lenses for the government and eye care providers. After 15 years in optical retail, I sold the stores to other doctors and opticians. The commercial lab was sold in 2010 to the largest optical lens manufacturer in the world. I was President/CEO of the commercial lab until 2016 when I launched DigitalOptometrics.
What led you to create the technology behind DigitalOptometrics?
Existing remote eye exam technologies were almost exclusively refractive based solutions. There was no ocular health assessment, no early detection of eye disease, and no Optometrists involved in the process.
I wanted a patient-centric solution, a technology that put patients first by replicating a comprehensive eye exam performed remotely by Optometrists that communicated live with patients via hi-definition video conferencing. Patients have questions that need answered by the doctor – having this live communication was one of the core components of the technology.
What was the process for executing against your planned invention (approvals, testing, etc.)?
Utilizing 6 full-time optical experienced software developers, we went through a full year of coding and development to arrive at an invention that was ready for testing. We then went through a number of months of beta testing in a live environment in which 500 patients were examined through the DigitalOptometrics technology. In addition, we were granted a U.S. Patent for the process in May 2018.
As a former optometrist, how does this technology directly benefit optometrists?
I am still an Optometrist, just a non-practicing Optometrist. Optometrists now have the flexibility in schedule to stay engaged with the profession they love while balancing work and personal commitments. Optometrists can now practice from a home office and can do so without compromising the high clinical standards that we all want for our patients.
How does it benefit the customer receiving the eye exam?
Patients can now have greater access to quality comprehensive eye exams. They can be examined at dates and times of their choosing rather than based on the availability of an Optometrist to conduct the eye exam. Comprehensive exams are now accessible to patients in remote and underserved locations without the need to travel distances to receive an eye exam by an Optometrist.
What is the success you have seen with clients using tele-optometry?
Our success is measured by a number of factors – Net Promoter Scores (NPS) Patient Surveys, Redo rates and Conversion to Sales. Thousands of Net Promoter Score Surveys have been completed by patients. NPS results range from mid-80’s to mid-90’s indicating large-scale patient satisfaction, approval and engagement with the technology by patients. Redo’s are requests by patients for another exam not satisfied with the results of the first exam. Our redo rates are a fraction of 1% indicating the consistent accuracy of our optical exams. Conversion to sales is based upon the number of patients who purchase eyewear following an exam. It has been reported to be higher with remote Optometrists than with on-site doctors.
Can you describe the process of tele-optometry from client to optician to prescription?
The patient arrives and fills out their demographics along with ocular and medical history in a tablet. This information gets transmitted to the cloud to be reviewed by the remote Optometrist. The local technician takes the patient into the pre-testing area where a number of eye tests are performed including Auto-refractor/Keratometer, Auto-lensmeter, retinal camera image, video slit lamp, Non-Contact Tonometer, and additional tests. These test results are delivered to the cloud to be reviewed by the remote Optometrist.
The patient is then led into the exam room. The patient sits in the exam chair and a digital phoropter is placed in front of the patient. The patient looks straight ahead at the chart. A large monitor is above the chart. A remote technician appears on the screen and takes control of the phoropter and performs a complete subjective refraction.
When complete, the remote technician leaves the screen at which point a remote Optometrist appears. The Optometrist communicates live with the patient; might take control of the phoropter to refine the findings of the remote technician; the Optometrist will show the patient their retinal images on the screen and answer any questions the patient might have.
The Optometrist will provide lens recommendations and any ocular health information or referrals. The Optometrist will finalize the prescription for eyeglasses and/or contact lenses. The prescription will print locally where the patient is located and the Optometrists concludes the exam. The patient is then able to browse and purchase eyewear at the optical dispensary.
At what point does it switch from tech to human hands?
Human beings are involved throughout the entire process since the exam replicates an exam performed by an on-site Optometrist.
A local technician processes the patient through data entry of ocular and medical history and performs the pre-testing devices.
A technician controls the phoropter remotely and performs a full subjective refraction.
A remote Optometrist can take control of the phoropter to refine the subjective refraction performed by the remote technician.
The Optometrist communicates live with the patient and answers any questions the patient might have before signing off on the prescription for eyeglasses and/or contact lenses.
What is the optician component in telemedicine?
Opticians and/or Ophthalmic technicians can be involved in the telemedicine process performing the role of local technician. They play an important role in walking the patient through the entire process.
If someone was skeptical in regard to accuracy of the technology used in telemedicine, what would you say to educate them?
As noted above, our redo rates are a fraction of 1%. The reason for this is that we are performing the same refraction as is provided with an in-person, on-site doctor – a full subjective refraction – so the results are the same and provides the patient with the identical high clinical standards typically found it during the performance of a comprehensive eye examination by an on-site, in-person Optometrist.
To learn more about the advantages that you can receive from Tele-optometry by DigitalOptometrics, contact us at (877) 506-0002 or email info@Digitaloptometrics.com.