In the 21st century, technology continues to provide optometrists with new tools and equipment to diagnose and treat even the tiniest of eye disorders. As on optometrist, you’ll rely on those tools to give your clients the most up-to-date corrective prescriptions you can. At the same time, you’ll use the tools to catch potential eye problems and counsel your patients on how to avoid further vision complications. The tools help you fulfill your primary role as an optometrist -- to examine your patients’ eyes, diagnose and manage eye diseases, prescribe glasses or contacts, and treat vision problems.
The ever-present eye-charts remain a staple in the optometrist’s office. They include the cards and charts such as the Jaeger eye chart, single Lea symbol books and, of course, the standard Smellen eye chart. The Smellen chart was invented in the 1860s by Dr. Herman Smellen and continues to be the industry standard. It’s got those 11 rows of increasingly smaller type that start with the big “E” at the top. For kids who can’t read letters yet or who are too shy, you can use the tumbling E chart that has just the letter E turned in various positions, also in rows that get smaller and smaller.
Other tools that are staples in an optometrist's office include lens flippers that help to find the right prescription while patients look at the eye charts. With a patient's forehead pressed against the top of the machine, you flip the ocular lenses until the patient can view the charts clearly. You may go low-tech at times and use a small paddle to cover one eye at a time while patients view the charts and rely on a number of other tools called occluders, which narrow the scope of vision for further testing.
Equipment that takes pictures of the eyes is standard in all optometry practices. The latest automated perimetry tools allow opticians to zoom in to see the minutest changes in the eyes. The cameras, scopes and refractors on the imaging tools give higher resolution images than have ever been seen in the industry, according to the Journal of Optometry. Other valuable imaging tools you’ll rely on include medical imaging software that helps you reach a diagnosis and compare pictures from one session to the next to assess the progress of conditions in your patients. Computational technology provides you with the tools to gauge minor changes that can mean major vision differences to your patients.
Optometrists measure the size of patients’ eyes to fit them with the best corrective lenses. A keratometer is used to measure the curvature of the cornea. You’ll rely on computerized refractors to measure the eye’s refraction and tonometers to measure eye pressure. A simple ruler-like tool is used to measure the distance between the pupils to fit corrective lenses properly.
In addition to the tools that are designed primarily for your specialty, you also have access to the latest electronic health records, or EHR, technology to track your patients and their conditions. According to the Journal of Optometry, 55 percent of American Optometric Association members use EHR in their practices. Use the tools to accurately keep up with the smoking status of your patients as well as allergies and other pertinent eye-health data. The system tools are most effective for sending out automatic reminders to your patients about appointments and important preventative care.
- O*NET Online: Optometrists
- Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth: Optometrist
- Journal of Optometry: New Technologies and Diagnostic Tools in Optometry
- American Optometric Association: New Technology and EHR Usage Among Optometrists
- All About Vision: The Eye Chart and 20/20 Vision
- LensCrafters: What to Expect at Your Eye Exam
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."