Keith Sheers, MD And Founder Of Optisoft. Simply Click on The Image To Find Out More About The Support On Offer From Optisoft!
IT In Optics Survey Reveals All
September 23, 2008
An enthusiasm to invest in optical diagnostic equipment, and link it to the practice management software system, was only topped by the costs of staff training - the overwhelming view of respondents to Optisoft’s national survey of IT use amongst independents.

From the 63% of practices that currently have no diagnostic equipment integrated to their IT system, all expected to reverse this in the near future, the survey found.

Integrated Technology

Of those currently using integrated diagnostic technology the most favoured single item linked in is the fundus camera, at 16% and predicted to rise to 42%. Slip lamp usage is expected to rise from 6% to 24%; and field screeners from 4% to 24%. Integrated lens meters are currently in use in 4% of practices, but this is set to rise to 17% and autorefractors from 4% to 16%.

While staff training and diagnostic technology topped the list for investment, an effective IT system followed close behind. New shopfitting took fourth position and then local Press advertising and PR and finally, local team sport sponsorship.

Applications Used

“We found that 98% of respondents had some sort of IT system and that 88% were using this for patient recalls, but this is expected to rise to 97%; 43% for appointments and expected to rise to 76%; 42% for cash management, but rising to two-thirds of those surveyed in the near future; just under 30% for clinical records, but rising to 65%; clinical imaging is set to grow from 20% to 59%; 24% for spectacle dispensing, rising to 58%; 17% for electronic catalogues and rising to just over half, while 15% use their system for contact lens dispensing, expected to rise to 45%. Future expectations revealed that 53% are looking at direct debiting, currently a tremendous lost opportunity,” said Optisoft Managing Director, Keith Sheers.

Websites

Just 25% of independent practices are connected to Broadband and only 16% have websites according to the survey, but this was expected to rise to more than half of all practices in the next few years, with the use of Broadband and email also expected to rise significantly. Only 20% of respondents were running a network, with at least two computers linked together, and this is expected to more than double in the foreseeable future.

“This clearly demonstrates that IT is moving from a predominantly reception area only role to being an essential tool throughout the practice, linking the consulting room, dispensing area and administration,” added Keith.

Online ordering of lenses and contact lenses.

Alongside this aspect of communication, the mode of sending orders was examined with 49% still relying on manual order pads, but only 1% of practices in the survey expect to continue ordering lenses in this way in the future.

41% are currently not using any online catalogues, but of those who do 15% use Essilor, 8% Norville, 7% Rodenstock, 6% Zeiss and 6% Hoya.

In the future Essilor’s online usage is expected to increase to 35%, with 23% to Norville, 19% to Zeiss, 18% to Hoya, and 16% to Rodenstock, with other lens providers having a smaller usage.

Within the contact lens segment, 45% of practices were not ordering any lenses online, but in the future all expected to be.

Of those currently ordering online 15% order from Ciba Vision, set to grow to 38% or respondents; 14% from J&J and set to grow to 37% of respondents; 12% from Cooper Vision and set to grow to 34%, while 7% of online lens orderers use Sauflon, but this expected to grow to 21%.

Investment in IT

The survey revealed that 13% have no dedicated optical practice management system, but only 3% saw this as acceptable in future, clearly showing that the benefits of dedicated practice management software are now widely understood.

Investment in IT was revealed, with 55% currently willing to spend no more than £3,000 per year; 20% spending from £3,000 to £5,000, and 11% spending between £5,000 to £8,000 pa; and just 6% spending up to £10,000 on a practice management system.

In the future half of respondents expected to spend less than £3,000 on IT, with just over a quarter expecting to spend £3-5K and 12% expecting to spend £5-8k.

Representing a very balanced view of the UK, the greatest number of the 423 respondents came from The Midlands at 12%, with the same figure from the North East; East Anglia at 11%, with 10% from London, and with the rest of the country evenly spread.

When it came to hardware Dell held 34% of the market share with Hewlett Packard running at 26%. Most interestingly, the current 6% market share of Apple is expected to grow to 34%, reflecting the trend amongst many practices to create a sleek, hi-tech, appeal.

Enhancing levels of care

“We were delighted to receive such an excellent response to the survey. Clearly there is a tremendous amount that many practices can do to enhance the level of service and care that they can give to patients, besides making their own practice management considerably easier and more accountable. This provides the first real benchmark for independents to see what their competitors are doing when it comes to information technology,” added Keith.

“The fact that 90% of those surveyed are using patient recall is very heartening. There are also strong indications that practice management software is becoming much more user-friendly with more expecting to provide their own IT support, in-house, than in the past.”

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