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Virtual Success: SUNY University Eye Center Provides Vision Therapy Services Online

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Virtual Success: SUNY University Eye Center Provides Vision Therapy Services Online

Vision therapy involves a series of activities and procedures designed to improve the connection of the eyes with the visual center in the brain. It is a highly effective non-surgical treatment for many common visual problems such as lazy eye, crossed eyes, double vision, tracking, and focusing problems that interfere with important skills like tracking, scanning, and reading. It is also beneficial for those with vision problems secondary to neurological issues such as stroke, concussion, and traumatic brain injury. 

To improve visual function, a careful evaluation by an optometric physician is followed by developing an individualized treatment program. The program includes weekly therapy sessions and regular evaluations to ensure therapeutic exercises are performed correctly and goals are met. “Home therapy” supplements the carefully monitored in-office procedures. But it in the time of Covid-19, providing the closely managed and consistent therapeutic services for patients has become a challenge explains Daniella Rutner, OD, Chief of Vision Rehabilitation at the University Eye Center (UEC).

“Our visual therapy patients and their providers depend on regular visits to monitor progress, change, and compliance in real-time as well as to make sure the treatment plan and exercise techniques for each case are working,” says Dr. Rutner. “Like many areas of care during this time of crisis, vision therapy experienced a setback.”

In response, the UEC rolled out services via telehealth for patients with urgent care needs, including vision rehabilitation. The platform includes a helpful online application to teach and guide patients through their prescribed exercises much like a physical therapy session. The application features images and videos to provide clarity about how to perform an exercise and use a lens or visual assistive device. Doctors also can customize activities and instructions for specific patient populations.

“Telehealth allows doctors to safely and securely continue face-face consultations with their patients. But one of the complications moving to a virtual platform is ensuring patient compliance with home therapies,” says Dr. Rutner. “The online application is a helpful adjunct to care in that it gives patients step-by-step instructions for exercises while providing doctors with reports for monitoring compliance and progress.” 

Although regular in-person visits with patients remain the preferred approach, Dr. Rutner says that the transition to telehealth during the pandemic is working as patients have responded well to receiving treatment through the safety and convenience of online care. Additionally, they have been able to easily follow and keep up with prescribed rehabilitation protocols and instructions.

“Patients are following through with their therapy program at home in conjunction with regular online check-ins with our providers. Our telehealth platform encourages patients to take greater charge of their health care needs and progress with doctors serving as a guide.”

While telehealth visits remain available, the University Eye Center is offering in-person appointments for primary and urgent care visits across all of our eye care services including the new Barbara Saltzman Center for Pediatric Eye Care. For more information or to make an appointment, call 212-938-4001 or visit the UEC web site for more information about eye health and vision care.



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