February 21, 2019
2 min read

‘Industrial revolution’ brings immediate access, convenience to optometric care

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David Heath
David Heath

NEW ORLEANS – Eye care is experiencing a wave of effects from the fourth industrial revolution resulting from “superintelligence” like robotics, AI and nanotechnology, according to David Heath, OD, EdM, FAAO, president of the State University of New York College of Optometry, here at SECO.

“The 4th Industrial Revolution will empower the patient with immediate access, convenience and continual care,” Heath said.

Technologies like these are helping make data collection easier and less subjective, he said. Additionally, various health information exchanges enable accessing information and big data more efficient.

Academic programs will be affected by this changing tide as well, Heath added.

“Schools and colleges of optometry are obligated to the second and third industrial revolutions while preparing for the fourth,” Heath said.

By 2021, there will be more female than male optometrists. Among optometry school graduates in 2018, less than half identify themselves as white, he added.

“It’s important to understand these changing demographics in the industry,” Heath said. Generation Z, those born in 1996, are now making their way into the workplace. Technology is native for this generation and they are completely comfortable networking and socializing online through YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and other channels.

It is commonplace for Generation Z to spend 5 hours or more on their phones per day, he said.

Schools and colleges of optometry must look to their students to dictate interprofessional behaviors, to speak up, to participate and engage in and out of the industry.

“Optometry schools can often focus too often on the problems of the future, without looking ahead to the future,” Heath said.

Teaching data analytics and communication skills so future optometrists can fit into almost any venue they choose to work, along with care coordination and technology like AI, are the issues schools should focus on for the future, he said.

“If we don’t think about the future we risk being left behind,” Heath said.

Integration of the health care system is another important component of the fourth industrial revolution.

“To fully be integrated into the health care system, we have to be completely connected, like the emergence of health information exchanges – that should be the ultimate goal along with how we interact with hospital-based systems,” Heath continued.

In the past few years in New York, Heath has witnessed an uptick in collaboration and training opportunities with other hospital-based systems, more than he has seen in 20 years.

“There is certainly a recognition that partnership and collaboration is the wave of the future,” he said.

Heath ended by asking attendees, “We are now in the fourth industrial revolution: Are we really ready to participate in that environment and within that context? – by Abigail Sutton


Heath D, et al. See the vision of tomorrow forum. Presented at: SECO; New Orleans; Feb. 20-24, 2019.

Disclosure: Heath reported no relevant financial disclosures.