Id be willing to bet that someday soon, Ill be able to pre-order my Starbucks coffee so that its waiting for me when I arrive, and my credit card automatically will be charged when I pick it up. Im sure Ill be able to rush in and out, but the whole experience of buying my morning coffee will be lost. You see, Id prefer a world in which the nice boy behind the counter sees me walk in, recognizes me and remembers that I like a plain-old-ordinary house blend with lots of room for cream.

What does this have to do with optometry? Well, I associate Starbucks with all things modern, like technology, which happens to be the focus of this months issue of Review of Optometry.

Actually, this month marks Reviews 27th Annual Technology Report. Im not sure why I bother to mention that this is the 27th year weve done this report. Come to think of it, it might actually detract from the message. Did we even have technology 27 years ago? After all, we didnt have Starbucks; that much is for sure.

Anyhow, technology. Woo Hoo! Im going to go out on a limb here and be perfectly frank: Sometimes, I hate technology. I really do. Whats the use? To save time? Do you have more time now than you did 27 years ago?

Oh, but technology is good because it helps you fit more patients into your schedule. That means youll make more moneyafter you spend more, that is.

But thats OK because in the modern optometric practice much of the examination can be done with automated equipment. With telemedicine, it may even get to a point at which the doctor does not need to be present in the same room as the patient! Im told that your patients will love this. I say theyll love it as long as they are the ones who get to stay home. They dont want you out sunning on the beach while theyre sitting in your testing room in front of some voice-activated, solar-powered, smart machine.

Yes, technology is goodas long as its my life that it improves. Thats what your patients think. What does your fancy-schmancy machine do to make their lives better? Thats the challenge. Thats what you need to communicate because I dont think weve reached a point where patients believe that a machine can do it better than a doctor.

Patients may say they want to be in and out, but what they mean is that they want to be in and out of your waiting room. They still want chair time in the exam room. After all, thats what their insurance companies pay you so little for.
Think about it. Youve experienced it to from the patients perspective. Youve cursed the auto- mated phone messages and prayed that you would figure out the correct sequence of numbers that would finally connect you to a live operator. Technology makes us work better, but we increasingly find ourselves interacting more with a machine than with another human being. Thats what frustrates us about our so-called modern world.

Still, you need the latest technology for at least two reasons: 1) If you dont have it, youll look like Dr. Stone Age, and you wont bring in new patients. 2) Despite the inherent frustrations, technology really does allow you to deliver better care. Ill admit it: A few years ago, I secretly believed that wavefront was a bunch of marketing smoke and mirrors. I didnt think it would change the standard of care for anyone other than a LASIK patient. But that is exactly whats beginning to happen (see Adaptive Optics Makes Waves in Eye Care).

And thats what you need to tell patients. How does your technology affect the level of care? Make it personal. I dont care how good your machine is; it wont make the patient believe that he or she is okay. Only you can do that. Only a real live human voice, coupled with an expression of genuine concern, can ease a patients fear and offer reassurance.

Vol. No: 141:08Issue: 8/15/04