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Visual Fields in Virtual Reality – Flexibility and Efficiency that Drives Earning Power

Professor, Southern College of Optometry

At Southern College of Optometry (SCO) we have multiple visual field testing devices, each of which commands its own room. When in use, they require a qualified staff person to remain in the room with the patient throughout testing. For the most part at SCO, this is done by our students, who are learning the mechanics of performing visual field testing, but also the art of helping the patient perform to the best of their abilities. The better the patient does on the test, the better the care we can deliver based on that good data.

In our clinic, we have 70 full sized exam rooms and four smaller rooms of 80 to 100 square feet dedicated to performing visual field testing. In a clinic as large as ours, it was easy to incorporate these rooms with the amount of space we needed for our testing equipment. In a private practice setting though, where every penny counts and where every square foot of office space needs to be purposed to bring the best return on investment, finding a way to save on this space demand could help the bottom line of the practice.

When you put on the virtual reality (VR) headsets, they seal out the rest of the visual world and you are at ease as you sit and look out into the virtual visual space created inside. You realize right away that you don’t need to perform this testing in a dedicated space. It can be done in spaces in the office that are relatively quiet or have low traffic, but you don’t need a dedicated space. In fact, imagine having two VR headsets at a small desk with a tablet-based computer on a table with a chair on either side of the table. After a quick wipe-down with an alcohol pad, the device can be put onto a patient and adjusted. You start the patient in one chair by entering pertinent patient data into the tablet. After a quick calibration to utilize eye tracking, you have one touch access to the test you want to run, and they are off. While the first patient is responding to the program inside the VR headset, you get the second patient prepped and get them going as well. One operator can easily run two patients at the same time, in a lit space, which is much more comfortable for all.

Then five to seven minutes after starting the program, the tablet indicates the first patient has finished and off comes the headset ready to be cleaned and sterilized for its next use. You receive immediate feedback as to the results of the field tests done, which go right to the HIPAA compliant cloud storage. The doctor, or any staff person who needs to review results, can then pull up the visual fields from any authorized computer with internet access in software that does progression analysis automatically.

This facilitates using far less space to perform the same amount of testing and a single staff person can be trained to administer the test on as many people as you have VR headsets on hand. The result is a higher ROI for the practice by decreasing the amount of space that needs to be dedicated and allowing for cross trained staff to administer the tests more easily than is required by the more traditional units.


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