So you’re considering which testing system to buy for your practice. Most systems will have the standard acuity charts needed for simple eye testing, binocular balancing, and astigmatic tests. But you want a system that is dynamic, and offers revolutionary functionality.
Here are ten questions you should ask yourself before choosing which software to purchase.
1. How is the man-machine interaction?
To answer this question, you need to check whether the software was built with the user in mind. If you find yourself struggling to manage the software during testing, then it may be a precision system but it doesn’t take user experience into account. The design should make using the software a pleasurable experience where you harness the power of technology to enhance your practice and inspire confidence in your patients. While testing, you should always be in control of the software – not the other way round.
2. Can anyone use the software to generate reports?
If you want to make the most of your consultation time, find out whether the software’s functionality allows for someone to run preliminary visual acuity, stereo acuity, contrast sensitivity, and color thresholds testing. Check whether these tests can be run by your technician, or even a receptionist with no knowledge of eye testing, generating detailed PDF reports which can be handed to you to use as part of your examination – without you having to lift a finger. Also check whether the reports can be submitted directly to EMH | EMR systems, storing patient information for historic comparisons and collaboration with other doctors to enhance patient treatments. Ask yourself if the reports can be submitted to medical insurance companies for justification of eye surgery or refractive procedures.
3. Can you set up your own test sequences and protocols?
In a contemporary practice, different patients should be tested differently, and a good system would allow for this. Check whether you can customize your tests accordingly. For example, with adults you may want to start by using a standard Sloan chart, then do red-green balancing, then astigmatism testing. Testing a young child you could start with a number chart, then show a video to distract them while doing a retinoscopy, and continue with red-green balancing. If this dynamic approach is important to you, check to see how many variants of these sequences you could set up on the system. If you share your lane with other doctors check that each doctor can have their own setup.
4. Can you customize or randomize your chart?
One of the major advantages of computerized testing is its potential to be adjusted to your needs. Consider whether the software allows you to customize or randomize the letters on your chart. Perhaps you are used to the letters from your old system, and don’t want them to change – good software will allow you to make this decision. An excellent system would have a graphic drag and drop editor, so you can even do live changes on your chart should the need arise. It would also offer intelligent randomizing which ensures the same letter is not placed twice on a line or placed nearby on the lines above and below. Check to see that you can customize optoptype sizes. You may like to display a 63 size and not the 60 size. You see these lines every day – don’t you want to choose how they look?
5. Does it come with an infra-red remote control?
You should ask yourself whether the supplier offers a suitable remote to operate the system. Infra-red remotes are an established technology, and are incredibly reliable. These remotes can be moved from room to room without connectivity problems, and batteries rarely need to be changed. A well-designed remote control should allow you to go directly to an isolated horizontal line of letters on the screen, and easily adjust letter size with a simple, functional button. It should also allow for navigation between tests and charts without the use of a mouse or keyboard. A good remote should have enough buttons to prevent the need for a second function button, which makes a remote unwieldy and awkward to use. A really great remote could also have specialized buttons, such as a ‘favorites cycle’ button or a button to shut down the system when not in use.
6. Can it interface with mobile devices?
Mobile technology can be used to enhance the way you operate in your practice. When considering which system to purchase, you should look at whether you can control it using a smart device, either something small that fits in your pocket or a larger, wall-mounted device. An app installed on a mobile device could render it a remote control for the system and can also be used as a second display, so you can observe what’s happening on the patient monitor without having to turn your head. The device should also allow for customization of the remote layout, so you are able to use it comfortably and intuitively. And of course it should be compatible with all operating systems.
7. Does it have an intelligent remote?
So you have found a system which has a remote, and can be linked to a mobile device. But does this make the system easy to operate, improving your testing methods and saving you time and effort? A common challenge during contrast sensitivity, stereo, color, and other testing is that the person administering the test needs to know what the correct “answer” is. When considering which system to use, check to see whether you have an option of a repeater screen which allows you to see either a duplicate of what the patient is viewing, or the correct answers. A dual view system, which allows you to see correct results, should be displayed on your remote, or even used as a mounted screen behind or next to the patient.
8. Does it require a monitor of a specific size and resolution?
When considering a system, you need to ask yourself whether it will work with your current setup. You don’t want to be in a position where you have to change hardware or operating systems to support the product. The software you choose should work on any monitor. A good system will allow you to calibrate the software to work with any resolution (number of pixels) and screen size. In-application automated calibration can also accommodate for variation in monitor brightness, and you should check for this when considering which system to purchase.
9. Does the service provider offer excellent support?
This is a critical piece of testing equipment in your business, and it’s essential that the product is stable. Make sure the software has an integrated support option, like TeamViewer. If remote support is offered, make sure that providing details to the support agent is not a complex task. More sophisticated systems will allow you to send a support request directly from the application. You should also determine how actively the supplier improves the software, adding features and keeping up with new technologies. Always check how long your license is valid for, whether you receive free upgrades, and how long free support is offered from time of purchase. These factors will have implications on total cost of ownership of the system.
10. How much does the system cost?
Of course, this is one of the main considerations when buying a system – are you getting good value for money? When considering the price, make sure you have calculated in the cost of updates and support. If you are looking for a cost-effective solution, find out if you can rent the software, or buy a cheaper edition and upgrade when you need more features.