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Optometry chains offer a wide range of eye care services, making it convenient for patients to access eye care locally.
However, the widespread accessibility of optometry chains has a reverse side for them. The shortage of employees, new unfamiliar equipment for diagnostics, and a large number of patients create an extremely challenging workflow for many optometrists. This, in turn, creates a number of challenges that can be more familiar to Optometry chains: low optometrist recruitment and retention, inconsistent quality of examination throughout the practices, lack of communication with patients, etc.
Automation of routine processes and digitalization have always served as answers to challenges like these in any industry, and healthcare is no exception. Luckily, automation of one of the most complex tasks for optometrists – OCT examination is already available to optometry chains with Artificial Intelligence (AI).
OCT proves to be one of the most efficient diagnostic tools for many modern top-notch optometry practices, however, mastering it requires skills and time. Artificial intelligence tools, such as AI for OCT analysis platform, can automate many routine processes which will have enormous benefits for any optometry chain. The top 8 benefits are the following:
#1 AI for OCT increases clinical efficiencies
Automating OCT scan analysis through AI reduces the time optometrists spend on image interpretation. This allows optometrists to focus on more complex cases, patient interactions, and personalized treatment plans. For any large optometry chain, saving time means providing more patients with high-quality service.
How does it work in practice?
For instance, Altris AI has a severity grading of b-scans. Severity grading means that it is easy to see if the eye is healthy (removing any need to spend time interpreting) or highlight where the pathology is and the degree of severity.
- Green- no pathology detected
- Yellow- mild to medium level of severity
- Red – severe pathology detected
#2 AI for OCT provides consistently high standard of quality throughout the chain
AI algorithms provide consistent and standardized analysis regardless of the individual interpreting OCT scans. This reduces variability in diagnoses and ensures that patients receive uniform care across different clinics and practitioners within the optometry chain.
AI algorithms can analyze OCT scans with incredible precision and consistency. They can detect subtle changes in retinal structures that might be missed by human observers, leading to earlier and more accurate diagnoses of various eye conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and more.
This will help younger less experienced optometrists and will serve as a second opinion tool for more experienced specialists.
#3 AI for OCT enables better retention of employees
The shortage of optometrists in the world is staggering. 14 million optometry specialists are needed worldwide according to the WHO, while today there are only 331K ready to work.
It is equally difficult to hire and retain a good optometrist for a company in 2023. However, more and more young optometrists choose innovative businesses that use technology to improve the workflow. Top-notch equipment, convenient scheduling tools, and of course, Artificial Intelligence for OCT & fundus photo analysis might be the perks that will help optometrists to choose your optometry business.
Fresh from college optometrists feel more confident when they know that they will have a backup when reviewing OCT scans
#4 Reduced Workload Burden
Optometrists often have heavy workloads, and AI can help alleviate some of this burden by handling routine tasks like initial image analysis. This enables optometrists to spend more time on patient consultations and treatment planning.
According to a survey by the General Optical Council, 57% of optometrists worked beyond their hours in 2022. Optometrists were more likely to be working beyond their hours (60%) or finding it difficult to provide patients with the sufficient level of care they needed (34%) when compared to other registration types.
It is possible to outsource preliminary image analysis to Artificial Intelligence tools but communication and empathy are human tasks only.
# 5 AI promotes enhanced patient education
Let’s not forget about the patients. AI-generated OCT reports can help explain complex medical conditions to patients in a more understandable, visual way. After all 80% of all the information we receive is visual: imagine your optometrists not only telling but also showing what is going on with patients.
Comprehensive, color-coded OCT reports may improve patient education and engagement, leading to better treatment adherence and loyalty.
When patients don’t understand what they are paying for they are not likely to return for annual checkups. At Altris AI we created smart OCT reports that are comprehensible for patients as well as optometrists. We visualize all the pathologies and the patients can trace the dynamics of
#6 Reducing a clinical risk. No chances of getting a legal inquiry because of a pathology missed
Optometry chains can perform around 40K OCT scans a week. Statistically speaking, the chance of missing a minor early pathology is huge simply because of the big number.
With the double-check that AI for OCT scan analysis provides, It is not possible to wipe the risk out for 100%, but it is possible to diminish the risk to the absolute minimum.
For the optometry chain, it might mean no bad PR and weird stories in the papers and subsequently, a better brand image.
#7 AI makes early detection of pathologies possible on OCT
AI algorithms can identify early signs of eye diseases that might not be easily recognizable in their early stage. This early detection can lead to timely interventions, preventing or minimizing patient vision loss.
Glaucoma, Wet AMD, Diabetic Retinopathy, and genetic diseases are among the pathologies that lead to blindness if not detected in time. Detecting pathological signs and pathologies related to these disorders in time can literally save patients from future blindness.
Early detection of pathologies means that it is possible to stop or reduce the risk of total blindness which is the best result in any sense. Early detection will allow optometrists to give valid recommendations, and advise on dieting and supplements right at the optical store.
#8 Competitive Edge
AI is a buzzword, and it’s not accidental. All major players understand its enormous value and invest in it. During the last presentation, the CEO of Google said “AI” 140 times, and let’s be honest, it is not to show off. It is because AI can actually make changes in business: automation of repetitive processes, workflow optimization, and human error reduction.
Adopting AI technology for OCT analysis showcases the optometry chain’s commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements in healthcare. Gaining a real competitive edge is another big goal.
This can attract patients who value cutting-edge approaches to diagnosis and treatment. A younger generation of patients are curious about new technologies, and this can be an additional lead magnet for them.
Incorporating AI for OCT analysis into optometry chains can enhance patient outcomes, make the workflow more efficient, and improve the performance of each optometry center. However, it’s important to ensure that the AI systems are properly validated, integrated into clinical workflows, and monitored to maintain their accuracy and effectiveness. More than that, it should complement, not replace, the expertise of optometrists. The technology should be used as a tool to aid optometrists and make OCT examination more effective.