Optometry in the Age of Corona

Isaac Fox, Staff Reporter

Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, was thrown out of orbit on March 14, and after six weeks, we’re still spiraling through deep space. Not everyone, however, can spend these dark days watching Netflix. Some- including food workers, law enforcement, sanitation, and, of course, many medical professionals- are still going out into the world and doing their jobs, and even more people are working online in some form. 

Hayley Woodall, as an optometrist, finds herself at a somewhat awkward intersection right now. She’s a medical professional, but, as optometrists don’t treat the coronavirus or normally save lives in any direct sense, the clinic where she works is closed.

Instead, Hayley sees patients over Medent, which is her clinic’s electronic record-keeping software. The format is similar to a zoom meeting. Patients first enter a kind of virtual waiting room, where they meet with a technician, who asks about their symptoms and walks them through an app intended to assess their vision. Afterward, they meet with Hayley or one of the clinic’s other doctors. 

Online appointments introduce a whole new set of difficulties. As anyone who’s been to an optometrist knows, there’s a whole host of equipment involved. Over Medent, most of that equipment is irreplaceable. Hayley can’t look into someone’s eye through their pupil or measure prescriptions. She can still refill prescriptions, change medications, and check to see if injuries are serious (and if they are, send patients to the emergency room). However, those tasks normally make up only a small portion of her job. “I can’t do probably 80 percent of what I normally do,” she says. “Our occupation is not one where this could ever be a long term solution.” 

For the most part, we’re still trying not to think about the long term. The world is a weird, weird place right now for people of all professions, and the future remains distant and uncertain.