Heidelberg, Germany – A leader in the world of high tech medical devices, Heidelberg Engineering is paving the way for the earlier recognition of eye disease to prevent and delay the most common causes of blindness.
VN: Why did you decide to invest in OCT?
Mark: We were drawn to the SPECTRALIS as our first practice OCT for its ease of use and the superb imaging quality of the technology. Our motivation was twofold: to better manage patients from a clinical perspective and to increase business revenue.
VN: How has the first year been of introducing a new type of technology?
Mark: It is all about patient education. We have concentrated on ensuring that the patients know that we have this new technology, and we have explained the benefits very well. We have done this via recall letters, the website and by speaking to patients within the practice.
Some patients call and others come in and say, “We hear you have a fancy new gadget: is it suitable for me?”
It is certainly a talking point. Our receptionists are very good and can explain the benefits whenever the opportunity arises. About 20 per cent of our patients are now having OCT scans but we are expecting this to grow. Most are older patients, but others with a family history of disease are receptive to the idea of having a baseline scan to file away for future reference.
VN: Do you invest much in marketing OCT?
Mark: We used the free supply of leaflets provided by Heidelberg Engineering, and have had some more produced for use in the practice and with recall letters. Our website promotes the technology and we have included the video from Heidelberg Engineering, which shows what takes place and the resulting scans.
We placed an article in the local press and have emailed as many patients as possible. We used MailChimp analytics to see how many people opened the email and it was well above the industry standard.
VN: How much are you charging for OCT?
Mark: We have found that when we explain the benefits of OCT, the additional aspect of health checking is very well received. We are charging £35 and most people are happy with that. We have a very diverse patient demographic but there appears to be no correlation between affluence and those who choose to have the scan.
Many of our patients have health insurance and one of the local companies – Westfield Health – will pay for OCT, so patients can frequently claim the cost back depending on how they choose to utilise their allowance.
VN: How does OCT fit into a routine eye examination?
Mark: We allocate a separate 30-minute appointment for OCT; this enables me to take the scan, analyse it and give the patient feedback whilst they are still with me. This means they can normally leave with peace of mind. Occasionally I need to call patients back for further scans but this is unusual.
VN: How easy is it to read the scans – especially at the outset?
Mark: I have attended the Heidelberg Academy training sessions so have learned what to look out for, and the team there are extremely good at supporting us to develop our skills within the practice – especially when we have queries about the images.
VN: Is there an opportunity for hospital work?
Mark: We have no local protocol currently for taking on hospital work but our two nearest major eye departments – the Chesterfield Royal Hospital and the Royal Hallamshire in Sheffield – both use the SPECTRALIS.
When we are referring, we can include copies of the scans and the departments know they can trust the technology. In the future, I would like to think that patients could be discharged from the hospital and we could review them in the community.
VN: What do you feel about OCT a year on?
Mark: The SPECTRALIS is proving to be a great way to differentiate ourselves, and patients respond well to a fairly clear message. Our tagline is, ‘Far more precision than is possible with the human eye’, and that seems to capture people’s attention.
Certainly when we tell patients that we have the latest and most up-to-date technology they tend to go for it. Heidelberg has proved to be very good in terms of customer service, marketing support and training.<br/ >
“Amazing” space-age technology
John Rose, an optometrist practice owner in Kingston, Surrey, is also a SPECTRALIS aficionado.
He says: “Every day is so interesting – I can’t believe how lucky I am to use such amazing technology. As professionals we are so fortunate to have access to equipment that tells us so much. The innovation of the SPECTRALIS is incredible and as a manufacturer, Heidelberg takes a long-term view, which I like as a practice owner.”
“The range of normal is so enormous that follow-up is the key to the value of OCT,” continues John. “Following change through eye tracking, and the tremendous attention to detail of the SPECTRALIS, make it a very valuable tool.
It is only when you start following up that you realise that Heidelberg Engineering is in a class of its own. If you are interested in clinical care and helping patients to look after their vision in the best possible way, there is only one machine worth having – the SPECTRALIS. I have two in my practice and I like the way they can be updated with each new innovation.”