Interactive software provides a valuable resource

September 1, 2009
Carol Patton

A new software program (Luma, Eyemaginations Inc.) offers more than 100 computer animations that help optometrists clearly explain eye-care products, diseases, and treatment options to patients.

Key Points

This past summer, a man in his late 20s scheduled an eye exam at 20/20 Optometry in Silicon Valley, CA, because he needed a pair of reading glasses. It would be the first time his eyes were ever examined.

"I tried to verbally explain how his nerve tissue didn't look symmetrical and why it was important for him to have his eyes checked on an annual basis," she said. He was very surprised at her findings, believing his young eyes were healthy. To help him better understand his condition and encourage compliance with annual eye exams, she tried another approach, something she had never done. She asked him to watch a 30-second computer presentation about glaucoma.

"Verbally explaining glaucoma to patients is often so difficult," she said. "The presentation showed him how pressure could change his nerve tissue, push on the nerve, and cause it to degenerate. This presentation was so powerful that he clearly understood what it meant to have pressure on the nerve and how it could cause vision loss. We now have an agreement that he is going to get his eyes checked every year."

Dr. Lee said the software program covers most, if not all, eye conditions and offers draw-over-video technology, which enables optometrists to draw on the animations in real time, using one click of the mouse. Besides visually portraying each condition, she said it clearly shows the consequences of eye conditions that are left untreated. Since patients sometimes minimize or even ignore eye-related problems, actually seeing how their eyes can be seriously damaged often makes a big impact and prompts them to take action.

Multi-purpose tool

The software program offers many other benefits, such as a scheduling feature that enables practices to slot specific topics or presentations into a weekly calendar to target different patient groups. If teen-agers are being seen on Tuesdays, for example, optometrists can show presentations on products that appeal to this age group, such as color contact lenses.

"Instead of looping the same presentation every 15 or 30 minutes, you can use the scheduler to show a variety of presentations throughout the day that are never repeated," added Dr. Lee. "In the front area of our practice, we have a big flat screen that shows what is new and information about common eye conditions."

The product also can boost the quality of a practice's customer service. Here's why: As an effective training vehicle, it provides staff with a clearer understanding of how specific diseases affect the eye, their potential long-term damage, and how treatment plans can prevent or stop the disease from progressing.

Likewise, it helps optometry practices deliver consistent and accurate information. Verbal explanations can be misinterpreted, and patients can grow confused and dissatisfied when employees with varying clinical knowledge and skills offer conflicting information, she said. The software program helps eliminate communication mix-ups in the exam room and dispensary. Patients can experience first-hand what it's like to look through different lenses, such as glare or non-glare, bifocal or progressive, or standard progressive or premium progressive, before purchasing them.

The software program "bridges the gap of technical terms with visual interpretation," Dr. Lee said.