Remote Monitoring Centers for Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration - Episode 12

A Future for Remote Monitoring Centers in Eye Disease

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Enthusiasm regarding the acceleration of technology advances, including retinal monitoring centers, that can be used to help prevent disease progression for patients with eye diseases.

John Rumpakis, OD, MBA: If we look back over the last 18, 20 months when the pandemic hit, what it really did is it accelerated the technological advances the companies were making. In my view, just one guy’s opinion, is that it took 5 years’ worth of technology and all of a sudden companies hit the gas, and we had technology coming out in 6, 8 months that probably we wouldn’t have normally seen for 5 years.

The patient acceptance because of the isolation and the changes with telehealth and the broad acceptance of telehealth, because people didn’t want to leave their homes, that changed the compliance model for this type of technology. It turned it on its head, and all of a sudden we’re not fighting the same battles that we had to fight before about doing remote conferencing via Skype, or FaceTime, or remote monitoring. All of these things now have become familiar daily types of tasks for patients, irrespective of their age demographic, right? Because it affected everybody.

When we start to look at the future of remote monitoring or remote testing and how we can leverage another party, an independent diagnostic testing faculty, and as you said Steve, add to both the clinical care and to the bottom line of a practice, that’s just good medicine, period, because the patient wins, and that’s what you’re focused on. If you’re doing your job correctly there, you’re going to obviously economically benefit by just coding things properly and translating the great care that you’re doing into the appropriate code. Any final thoughts from either of you on where you see remote testing and how you see it fitting into your clinical situations?

Jaya Pathapati, OD: I’ll go first. I have absolutely loved it. I have gotten such great feedback from patients. They feel so much more comfortable. Like you said, John, with COVID-19, all our older patients are much more tech savvy than they used to be. It’s a no-brainer. It’s another gadget. I have a patient who took it on vacation for 3 weeks, her remote monitoring. She said, “I did not want to be without it,” and she was 80. It shows that patients are ready for it and will accept it very easily. It fits into the clinic and it’s very little work for me as a doctor; it’s a little bit of work for our technicians who send the information, but hardly anything really to talk about. And it’s been a great revenue booster, like I said, with new patients. Patients know that they’re getting the latest care when they come in and you talk to them about this, so I am very excited to go forward with new stuff like this.

John Rumpakis, OD, MBA: Steve, how about with you?

Steven Ferrucci, OD, FAAO: Like you point out, John, COVID-19 really sped up the process. It made us realize that there are probably things we could do remotely that are going to benefit the patient and may be better in some circumstances. The future for offsite monitoring like this is huge. Notal Vision, Inc, is now looking at a home OCT [optical coherence tomography] that’s going to be able to use artificial intelligence to look for any fluid in patients with existing wet macular degeneration that will help the retinal specialist figure out when they need to inject that patient next.

Things like that are very exciting, and I think we’re only at the tip of the iceberg. I’ll admit, I’m sort of a Marvel movie geek. I love all these Marvel movies, and there’s an old quote from an old Spiderman comic book. And it says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I feel with all this technology and these new things we can do, we now have the power to help preserve the vision of our patients with macular degeneration and let them lead a better life. I think it’s really our responsibility to take that seriously and do what we can toward that goal.

John Rumpakis, OD, MBA: That is very well said. The most exciting thing I’ve gotten out of this today just for myself, I’m not in clinical practice, but it’s the fact that the patients are engaged in their own care on a daily basis. They’re not just going to the doctor and having something done to them; they’re involved in it. And that is an important component of that, Steve. That also allows us to focus on that great responsibility you talk about because now with all of the data that we have, it does put the burden on us. I’m going to say it’s a great opportunity for us to provide that best level of care.

I’d like to thank you both, Dr Ferrucci and Dr Pathapati, for joining us today, and thank you to our viewing audience. We hope that you found this Optometry Times® Viewpoints discussion to be rich and informative. We hope that it helps you in your practices, and maybe the way you view your interaction with your patients and the technology you employ to take care of those patients as well. Thanks for joining us today. Have a good evening.

Transcript edited for clarity.