Prior to COVID, traditional vision therapy and sports vision training were done in person. Patients and athletes would visit an office for an assessment and do their exercises and routine with a therapist or trainer. Homework would typically be assigned for patients to keep up with outside of office visits, but the majority of the training was done face-to-face.
One of my favorite quotes is, “Out of change, chaos, and confusion comes innovation.” Once COVID hit, and offices shut down their in-person work, practices had to pivot to continue to provide their patients and athletes with training. What was once done face-to-face, in a traditional office setting was changed to Zoom, computer programs, and even virtual reality. When traditional methods are unavailable, we have to quickly pivot and find solutions to run our businesses in different ways.
Similar to how the fitness industry changed its business models to continue to connect with its customers virtually and remotely, the way we delivered care and therapy to our patients and athletes also changed. Offices that embraced this new way of thinking were able to maintain their current businesses and even create new specialties or expand their current ones.
What Are Some of the Benefits of These New Methods of Delivering Training and Therapy?
- No space? No problem! One of the biggest hesitations I hear from practitioners who are interested in adding vision therapy or sports vision to their location is a lack of space. While some can be creative and utilize a vacant exam room, or others have the ability to expand or add another location, many feel that this is a true limiting factor for them. Virtual therapy and training can instead make this a possibility. Depending on the technology, the patient or athlete can still come into the office and do their training in person but use a workstation or smaller space than typically used. In other cases, the patient can do all or most of their training at home, freeing up the space in-office to be used for other patient care. In areas where space is scarce and comes at a premium, this can be a great opportunity to add specialty care in a limited footprint.
- If you build it, they will come – from everywhere. Another benefit of virtual training is that it opens up the possibility of what a patient could be for a practice. Typically, a patient needs to be local to make it to their in-person training and therapy sessions, which can significantly restrict the patient demographics. However, with training that can be done anywhere, anytime, you are no longer limited by zip codes in who you can provide training and therapy to. I received numerous emails from parents of athletes looking for Performance 20/20 locations (my sports and performance vision training facility) near them. At the time, we were only providing in person training in Stamford, CT. However, once we pivoted to a virtual option, I was able to (and still do) work with athletes all over the country and the world.
- It all comes down to consistency. One of the hallmarks of a successful training program for patients and athletes is how consistent they can be with their therapy and program. With traditional methods, there is often great buy-in and excitement in the beginning, but we see athletes and patients fall off their plans as time goes by. Families get busy, sports become more time consuming, travel plans happen, and all that life throws at us can make in-person therapy hard to commit to. With remote and virtual training, our patients and athletes now have the flexibility to train anytime, anywhere. They can keep up with their program on the road, away at school, on vacation, on snow days, and whenever it can be a challenge to commit to in-person work. This option can really help grow a vision therapy or sports vision business by giving busy parents a great option to provide treatment for their children and make it easy for all involved.
What Does Virtual Training Look Like for Sports and Traditional Vision Therapy?
When doing these virtual tests, our athletes were able to log in remotely from a tablet or computer at home, although this could also be done in the office. No special equipment is needed! After going through an evaluation, the athlete would then begin a customized training program that would be completed three to five times a week, with each session lasting 15-20 minutes. They also had the opportunity to do additional training outside their program. Similar to in-office training, the athlete is re-evaluated periodically.
We also communicate with the parents or athlete themselves to check on their progress, keep them motivated, and answer any questions. I feel this added touch point helps build loyalty and increase their consistency and commitment. Other options, such as REFLEXION Go, use virtual reality headsets to provide more real-life training. One of the benefits of these types of training is that it is easy for athletes to do at home. Most of our athletes love to play video games, and these tools tend to have a “gamified” platform. It feels less like training, and more like play.
There is a wide range of technology available for in person and virtual training. One of the benefits of adding this to a practice is it is typically less costly than traditional tools. At Performance 20/20, we have had great success using Vizual Edge, Senaptec, and Neurotracker for our remote sports vision training. These are all customizable, flexible, and very cost effective for athletes. On the vision therapy side, tools such as Vivid Vision and the Optics Trainer are both well known and respected options.
While in-person therapy and training gives us the opportunity to develop strong connections with patients, embracing the new technology that exists to provide vision therapy and sports vision training can help us elevate our practices and expand the patients and athletes who are able to benefit from our work.