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Meet My Best Friend, Theia

By Mary Miller, CPOT

As an eye care technician, I spend most of my day elbow-deep in diagnostics and data – it’s what drives most of my patient interaction. However, if you ask me what comes first in my heart, I will always tell you it’s the patient. I’m proud to work in a practice that emphasizes the importance of patient care, patient interaction, and our responsibility to those seeking treatment. Positive patient interaction is my number one priority and my largest focus.

When Dr. Gary Kirman, our practice owner, told us that he was buying not only one, but three AdaptDx Pro™ headset devices, I was concerned. These devices include an onboard technician, Theia™, who runs the test for patients using artificial intelligence. Once we had three Theias in the office, what was there going to be left for me to do? I was worried that Theia would replace me – that her interaction with my patients would leave no room for me to do what I love.

Before Theia arrived

Before the headsets arrived, our practice depended solely upon the AdaptDx® tabletop unit for all our dark adaptation testing. I would sit with patients in the dark as we tested each eye, watching measurements being graphed on the monitor, watching the screen for eye fixation – sometimes even watching patients lean totally out of position, which meant I had to correct them. Throughout the test, I’d remind patients to stay focused and offer encouragement. Even though the dark adaptometer did the testing and measuring for me, running these tests required a lot of my focus and attention as a technician.

With the AdaptDx Pro, Theia takes care of all of that. She tracks the patient’s performance during the test, keeping an eye on pupil movement, and guiding the patient when there’s a fixation error. All the things I did to communicate with my patients and ensure that their testing experience was a positive one would now fall under Theia’s purview. I have to admit, I didn’t like how that made me feel – awkward, superfluous…unnecessary.

Now Theia allows me to do more

As it turns out, the core of my work hasn’t changed – Theia just allows me to do more. I’m able to start a test with one patient, and then move onto other exam rooms to start tests with our two additional AdaptDx Pro devices. Theia is taking care of the testing procedure, but I’m still there for my patients. I’m keyed into how they’re doing, noticing if they seem uncomfortable or need extra reassurance. I can check in with them during rest breaks and answer their questions.

On slower days, when I only have one patient being tested at a time, I can review my patient’s records to ensure that we’ve thoroughly addressed all their care concerns. I frequently see as many as 14 patients in a day, and with that much hustle and bustle, it’s easy to lose track of small details. With Theia as my teammate, I have more time to double-check that patients are up to date on necessary tests and that they have enough of our prescribed nutraceutical supplements before they leave the office.

Finding and treating age-related macular degeneration is a special passion for Dr. Kirman and our entire team. Several months ago, something he said in passing struck a chord: “We screen patients for glaucoma during every single exam. We check their ocular pressure, we look at the back of their eye – once a patient enters our practice, we are committed to performing the tests necessary to detect that disease.

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Time to make AMD detection part of the standard of care

If we’re that committed to glaucoma testing, why wouldn’t we approach AMD with the same – or an even greater – level of commitment? AMD is three times more prevalent than glaucoma, making it a much larger risk for our older patients.”

When Dr. Kirman said this, it was suddenly clear why he’d decided to purchase three AdaptDx Pro devices. When we first heard about his decision, many of the staff assumed that at least one of them was going to end up sitting on a shelf, collecting dust. It seemed unrealistic that we would need to use all three devices with any kind of frequency – until Dr. Kirman reminded us that we need to be treating AMD detection as part of the standard of care, similar to other eye diseases.

The staff at Kirman Eye has taken that to heart, and there are days that we’re using all four of our AdaptDx devices at once. We’re dedicated to making sure that every patient over 50 is screened for impaired dark adaptation. Our pre-exam questions have been developed carefully so we don’t miss documenting any condition that warrants medical testing, especially if an out-of-pocket expense would prevent any patient from receiving a test that might help preserve their vision.

The ability to see, especially for our elderly patients, is so incredibly important for their independence and overall quality of life, which is why I take so much pride and ownership in the patient care portion of our approach to AMD management. With Theia as my sidekick, I’m able to screen more patients than ever before, and I have a partner in managing the workload that comes with necessary testing. That’s why I call her my new best friend. Theia helps me take care of my patients – my favorite part of my role as a technician.

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MaryMiller

About the Author

Mary Miller is a Diagnostic Technician at Kirman Eye, a busy multi-doctor optometric practice in Hummelstown, PA.

She administers sight-saving screenings and tests such as the AdaptDx Pro, visual fields, and optic nerve imaging. Mary also conducts nutraceutical consultations with patients to help promote eye health and prevent AMD (age-related macular degeneration).