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Innovations in eye care

Lt. Col. Steven Clancy, 21st Medical Group Optometry Flight commander, shows off the clinic’s innovative new tool, an automated refraction system, which will allow more efficient patient care. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Col. Steven Clancy, 21st Medical Group Optometry Flight commander, shows off the clinic’s innovative new tool, an automated refraction system, which will allow more efficient patient care. (U.S. Air Force photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- So which is really better, "1" or "2"? That question can cause a lot of anxiety for 21st Medical Group optometry clinic patients. Many patients are fearful that they will be stuck with a bad pair of glasses if they give the wrong responses during their exam.

The truth is often that neither "1" nor "2" is the best, but the patients' subjective responses are still critical to the process. One of the goals in the optometry clinic is to ensure every patient that needs a spectacle correction walks out of the clinic with the best prescription possible. In order to do that, optometry professionals perform a series of procedures called a refraction where we use a series of lenses to bend light entering the eye to find the optimum combination that creates the sharpest image for a patient.

The refraction process has not changed for more than 100 years, but some of the tools used to perform refraction have improved with technology. The Peterson optometry clinic has recently taken advantage of some of this innovative technology with the acquisition of an automated refraction system.

Previously, our ophthalmic technicians would collect data on a patients' vision status and their current prescription and then enter the information into the electronic health record for the optometrist to use as a starting point. Now, that data is automatically transferred to the refraction equipment in the doctor's exam room. The new system design allows the doctor to be much more efficient throughout the refraction process by simply pressing buttons and rapidly assessing which combination of lenses provides the best possible vision for the patients. The best part is we can also demonstrate with a single push of a button the contrast between what their vision is with their current prescription and what their vision will be with their "new and improved prescription."

Improvements in efficiency often mean that the patient receives less attention and less time is allotted to determine their needs. This is not the situation with the new refraction system. On the contrary, health care providers at the clinic are now able to offer our patients more comprehensive care by providing immediate feedback about changes in their vision. The time saved during the refraction also means that there is more time allotted to asses other aspects of the patients' visual health.

Improved efficiency can lead to mistakes due to rushing through a process. However, the new automated system actually decreases the chances for errors significantly. By automatically transferring data from the technician to the doctor, errors that can occur during the transcription of that data are eliminated. Also, by allowing patients to see for themselves how their new prescription compares to their current one, the chances of someone receiving a less than optimum prescription are reduced. This means there will be fewer patients returning to the clinic to be rechecked and more appointments will be available for other patients to utilize. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

So fear no more. The Peterson optometry clinic is ready to show how new innovations in technology have led to improvements in the manner they serve patients and improvements in service. While they can't make anyone less nearsighted than they already are, they can ensure that they will leave the clinic with their best possible prescription.

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