Your optometry practice will only be as strong as your team and the equipment they have to work with. That’s why it’s so important to set yourself up for success and equip your team with top-of-the-line equipment and optometrist tools. Once you have everything up and running, it is essential that you keep up with the latest industry advancements and make necessary upgrades to ensure you continue to provide the best possible care to your patients.
In this article, we will highlight some of the best tools and equipment to consider for your optometry practice, as well as some key considerations to help you make informed buying decisions.
Choosing the Best Optometrist Tools to Manage and Grow Your Practice
Choosing the very best optometrist tools and equipment for your optometry practice is a crucial part of establishing a high-quality, successful practice. That’s why it’s worth it to take your time and do your due diligence. Below are a few tips to help you choose:
- Remain focused. As you read through the optometrist tools and equipment highlighted below, keep your ultimate goal — which should be to maximize the quality of your patient care — in the forefront of your mind. Cost is, of course, an important factor in your decision-making, but providing the best possible quality of care to your patients should always be your number one priority.
- Network. To ensure you select the most highly-recommended equipment types and brands, it’s also a good idea to connect with other eye care professionals and seek their advice and input. If possible, call a few other optometrists with practices of similar size and scope, and ask for their equipment recommendations and any lessons learned. What tools and equipment do they consider essential? What has been worth “splurging” on? Would they do anything differently now?
- Budget carefully. As you’ll read, some of the core equipment you need for your optometry practice is quite expensive. You should create a business plan with a detailed budget that includes all the tools, equipment, furniture, and anything else you’ll need to purchase in order to open up the doors of your practice. When in doubt, you can work with a professional optometry consultant on your financial planning.
- Stay up-to-date. In this industry, there is new technology coming out all the time, so you need to stay on top of the latest research and recommendations.
Now let’s explore the tools and equipment you’ll need!
Choose the Tools That Can Scale With Your Business
To get started, below are some of the essential tools and equipment that you’ll need to establish and maintain a successful optometry practice:
Tonometer: Tonometers are used to measure intraocular pressure and diagnose conditions like glaucoma. This is an essential piece of equipment because glaucoma is an increasingly common condition; in 2020, about 80 million people have glaucoma worldwide, and by 2040, this number is expected to increase to over 111 million. There are several types of tonometers to choose from: standard contact tonometers, digital contact tonometers, handheld tonometers, non-contact tonometers (also referred to as pneumotonometers), and newer ocular response analyzers, among others.
Ophthalmoscope: Ophthalmoscopes are used to examine the interior of the eye and are considered to be a critical tool for almost any optometry practice. They help examine the retina and identify problems such as retinal detachment, diabetic and hypertensive retinopathy, macular degeneration, and more.
Phoropter: This is another common tool used to examine the eye, identify vision problems such as myopia or hyperopia (more commonly referred to as shortsightedness and longsightedness), and determine proper eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions. There are both manual and automated versions of this tool that you can choose from.
Retinoscope: This tool is used to identify refractive errors in the eyes and can also help determine the correct lens prescription. It is often used in cases where patients are unable to give feedback to the optometrist due to certain physical or mental limitations.
Fundus Photography Equipment for Retinal Imaging: Although retinal photography equipment used to be quite expensive and take up a lot of space, with recent improvements in technology, it has become much more accessible and convenient. There are now many inexpensive options that can be attached to a high-resolution digital camera or a camera in a smartphone for easy use.
Slit Lamp: Slit lamps, also called biomicroscopes, are microscopes that are used to examine the interior of the eye and identify irregularities. There are several features that you should pay attention to when choosing between different types of slit lamps, such as slit width/length, illumination, magnification power, light source, and filter capabilities.
Pachymeter: These tools come in many different shapes and sizes and are used to measure the thickness of the cornea. Some are handheld and others are ultrasound devices that can be used for additional purposes.
Keep Office Space in Mind When Deciding on Equipment
Some essential optometry equipment takes up more space and requires a bit more upfront planning. That’s why it’s a good idea to do a physical assessment with your office space in mind before making a purchase. Will the piece of equipment fit in the stairwell or elevator during delivery? Do you have space for it in your office? Is it wheelchair accessible?
Below are a few examples of larger equipment that you’ll need to budget space for in your office layout:
Exam Chair & Stand: Patient exam chairs are often one of the most expensive and largest pieces of equipment you’ll have to purchase for your optometry practice, but they are of utmost importance. There are many different chairs to choose from with varying power adjustments, hydraulics, adaptable height, reclining angles, and wheelchair accessibility. In terms of spatial planning, keep in mind that there are left and right-handed instrument stands available. If you have limited space, there are also hybrid chair/stand units that take up less space.
Eyewear Display Case: This is another example of a larger piece of equipment that you’ll want to plan for. There are both wall-mounted and freestanding eyewear display cases of various sizes and styles to choose from.
High-Quality Optometrist Equipment Can Be Expensive, but Can Last a Lifetime
Optometry equipment is typically the next largest upfront cost after your practice’s building or rented space. The total cost of equipment for your optometry practice will vary depending on the type, quality, and number of each piece of equipment you choose, in addition to other factors. To give you a ballpark figure, for a small practice, all the brand-new equipment you need might cost around $100,000.
The optometrist tools and equipment listed below are more expensive than other options, but are high-quality and favored by many contemporary optometry practices:
Digital Visual Acuity (VA) Testing Equipment: More and more modern optometry businesses are switching away from standard eye chats to digital VA testing systems, despite the fact that they are a more significant financial investment. Digital systems offer a diverse selection of high-resolution visual acuity tests on a flat-screen computer monitor. They also incorporate a lot of great features, such as lens clarity visualization tools, and allow optometrists to randomize letters, use specialized charts for different clinical situations, and make adjustments according to the distance between the patient and the screen.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) Imaging Equipment: OCT equipment can be used to examine and assess various parts of the eye, from the macula, to the optic nerve, to the corneal angles, just to name a few. The cost is higher than a visual field machine, but it has many more uses. You can also purchase OCT machines at an even higher price that incorporate retinal photography technology. OCT machines are a significant investment, but they will allow you to accurately track progression of a range of many common conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular generation.
Autorefractors: The autorefractor is a modern device used to measure refractive errors. It is a more automated and advanced version of a phoropter, so naturally, it costs more. This tool is able to take precision readings and accurately determine when the image is formed precisely on the retina.
The Latest Software: Don’t forget about software and other non-physical optometrist tools that you’ll need to purchase in order to store and protect your patient data and other records. When it comes to data storage, be wary of the cheaper options out there. In order to avoid HIPAA violations, you need to be absolutely sure that data is stored securely with encryption or other protective software. It’s not worth cutting corners to save money here!
Are you still feeling unsure about which of these more expensive tools are worth the investment? It’s a good idea to conduct a financial analysis, including a return on investment analysis, before making a big purchase. Determine how many services you will need to perform to pay for the new equipment and be sure to confirm whether the equipment is reimbursable with your insurance company.
Final Thoughts on Optometrist Tools
Keep in mind, this is not a comprehensive list of all the optometrist tools and equipment you’ll need to run a successful optometry practice, but rather some of the essentials to help point you in the right direction.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you need and the associated costs, we’re here to support you and your optometry practice. By joining PECAA, you can earn substantial discounts & rebates. Our group buying power connects members to more than 70 exclusive and vetted vendor partners offering industry-best discounts up to 50%. On average, members save enough in discounts and rebates to triple their return on their membership investment! What’s more, by joining PECAA, you can access other invaluable benefits, such as professional optometry consulting, to help you make informed decisions about your practice’s equipment and finances.
If you’re in the process of starting your own optometry practice from the ground up, consider joining our Cold Start Practice Program, a special program that offers support above and beyond PECAA’s standard member programs. As Dr. Meg Richardson describes, the Cold Start Membership Program helped her get her practice off the ground and headed in the right direction:
“I joined PECAA pretty much as soon as I decided to open my own practice. My PECAA membership proved immediately beneficial in many areas. An area that was invaluable was when I was applying for a bank loan. Bryan was able to help me polish up my financial goals and projections before presenting to our local bank to ask for a loan. Needless to say, we got it! Bryan also provided me an excel spreadsheet which gave me an idea of how many of each ‘type’ of frame I should aim for (women’s vs. men’s, high vs. low price, etc). These are just a few examples of the ways PECAA has helped, I could go on and on!”