As new advancements in technology surface, we are forced to evaluate our current modes of practice, as well as realigning our relationship and understanding of the effects they pose. I recently had an opportunity to talk to Chloe Chan, a second year Optometry and Science student, and gain insight into her perspective on past, present, and future speculative technologies within the field of optometry.
J: What is your current area of study?
C: Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Optometry at UNSW, 2nd year.
J: Within your field, what are the technologies you currently work with?
C: There are quite a few, but I’ll name and explain (Full Interview) the ones we currently use.
- Slit lamp Biomicroscope
- Direct and indirect ophthalmoscope
- Perkins and Goldmann tonometer
- Gonioscopy, where we use a Gonio lens
- Retina camera
Also for the Phoropter, the Brien Holden Vision Institute designed a virtual Phoropter which simulates a virtual patient (px) with different types of prescription and the process of refracting light.
J: Are there any limitations to these current processes?
C: There are better versions of some of the mentioned instruments, but we don’t see it them commonly in practices because they are too expensive and sometimes unnecessary unless there are more serious cases.
J: Historically, the field of optometry has a rich history of innovation. In your opinion, what are the most defining innovations of vision technology that have shaped the optometric landscape?
C: I would have to say the IOL Master, an instrument that can measure the length of your eye along all axis. It allows us to check for myopic progression, as this is an important issue that we are trying to minimise and overcome. As our vision is worsening overtime because of constant near work and other factors. A research conducted with the aid of this instrument showed that our glasses are actually making our vision worse, because the image our glasses makes onto the back of the eye and retina is not exactly on the retina, but slightly out past the retina, so over time our eyes will elongate, and hence cause myopia progression. We are currently trying to design glasses that will make the image fall closer to the retina to minimise the eye change that compensates for this.
J: With the rise of speculative technologies, it’s interesting to see how new mediums and processes have been embraced by the healthcare industry. Undoubtedly, technology has changed all aspects of our lives, and in optometry we see the introduction of 3D printing, Virtual Reality studies, Telemedicine and contact lens devices becoming increasingly relevant. Do you believe that such technologies have a future in optometry and if so, in what aspects?
C: Well, 3D printing can be used to help treat age related macular degeneration (ARMD), and probably other ocular diseases. As an optometrist, we can diagnose ARMD and possibly prescribe drugs to slow its progression, but I think 3D printing is better used in ophthalmologists where they can actually use the 3D printed object and operate with.
The contact lens devices – this is a really interesting innovation, but I’m not sure how well it will be executed in the near future. I’m unsure if it will do more good than harm, particularly for the electronic viewing. If they somehow incorporate a ‘breathable’ contact lens in their design, otherwise problems like keratitis, an infection to the cornea, may occur.
Virtual reality studies such as Virtual Phoropter is currently being used by us to get as much practice refracting a px as possible. Whilst there are some problems and limitations, from first hand experience, I believe that this is a very useful technology to train and teach optometry students.
Additionally, Telemedicine would be great to check on px’s eye infections and some other ocular diseases that are more superficial. We could also use it to check on px’s and how their vision is changing.
J: From your perspective, what do you see as some problems and challenges your field might face with the introduction of these technologies?
C: Whilst it might make things easier and more accessible, a good but similarly it may result in optometrists becoming increasingly redundant. Personally, I’m not a supporter for our dependency on smart-phones. But looking at applications such as the SVOne, which more affordable than an autorefractor, I see how it creates that “wow” factor and would be useful in rural and remote settings.
J: Where do you see the ophthalmic and optometric industry headed within the next decade?
C: I think the way technology is changing we will see more efficient instruments requiring less skill, so people who aren’t specialists can use them. Whilst there are current applications on smart phones which allow you to see the back of the eye and retina, I see a future where patients themselves can “diagnose” possible ocular diseases. I also see virtual simulators for instruments such as the slit lamp and indirect Biomicroscopy being introduced.