Dr. Dillehay, chief medical officer at ClinTrialSolutions, a medical research organization, also fills in occasionally for patient care at a nearby practice, and she would request the exam lane with an automated refraction system. “Even before the recent pandemic situation, I did not like feeling patients breathe on my hands,” she says. When patients began wearing masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the breath condensation increased, fogging the phoropter lenses and slowing down examinations.
When Dr. Dillehay was approached by Elvin Fenton, OD, from Texarkana, Texas, who invented the VisibleBliss Phoropter Mask, to help guide him through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for his new device, she was intrigued by the transparent, disposable and recyclable mask, which functions as a non-gas permeable breath shield during refraction. In the process of helping Dr. Fenton gain initially an Emergency Use Authorization and then FDA registration for the device as an accessory to the phoropter, she began to realize what a brilliant idea this simple solution was.
SO SIMPLE YET EFFECTIVE
“I asked the doctor where I fill in to try the VisibleBliss Phoropter Masks” she says. It’s a large practice, with 16 staff members. The doctor phoned her the next day, calling the invention brilliant. “The staff also appreciated the extra layer of safety and not having to clean the device as they have to clean the slit lamp breath shields. It’s so simple, but it saves everyone so much time, and offers an extra layer of protection and safety to the office’s new protocols,” she says. She interviewed six additional doctors who were trying out VisibleBliss, and they were all excited about the product and the extra protection that it provided.
A number of professional organizations are already recommending use of breath shields at the slit lamp, along with asking patients to hold their breath during the examination. “However, a convenient, disposable breath shield for the phoropter makes perfect sense, and asking a patient to hold his or her breath during a refraction would be impossible. Additionally, our hands are much closer to a patient’s nose and mouth during a refraction than during a slit lamp examination. So I was much more concerned about transmission of any disease during refraction when someone is speaking so close to my hands, even if the patient is wearing his/her own mask,” says Dr. Dillehay.
“The VisibleBliss Phoropter Mask adds another layer of protection between me and the patient. We’re in very close contact during a refraction,” she says. She has heard from practitioners who have tried other solutions, but acrylic shields that hang from the phoropter, for example, move or get knocked down and have to be cleaned between each patient.
She has found that staff members love the VisibleBliss Phoropter Mask because it’s so easy and keeps exams more on schedule. “Lenses can fog so much when patients are wearing masks, that if you have to stop regularly during a refraction to let the lenses clear or to wipe them off, this adds minutes to the exam, and puts everyone behind schedule,” she says.
PROTECTION ADDS REASSURANCE
“Doctors underestimate the stress on staff members with the new cleaning protocols. So this becomes a win-win all around,” she says. “It’s such an elegant solution. It’s a practice-builder because as COVID-19 cases are increasing, patients want every assurance that their providers are taking every step possible to prevent transmission of diseases.”
Indeed, Dr. Dillehay expects that the benefits of the VisibleBliss Phoropter Mask will outlast COVID-19 protocols. “Even if the mask mandate goes away, it’s just great protection from patients who are breathing flu and cold germs or sneezing during a refraction,” she says. “It stops the fogging of the lenses about 90 percent to 95 percent of the time, even when patients are wearing their own masks,” she says. And if it saves several minutes per exam, over the course of a busy day, that’s a lot of time for everyone in the office to take a few minutes in between patients to destress from all of the increased pandemic-related activities.
Recycling a Plus
Dr. Sally Dillehay says that she makes a point of telling patients that the Visible Bliss Phoropter Masks are recyclable. “We take the mask off the phoropter and put it in the recycling bin in front of the patients. They like hearing that they can get the extra layer of protection without contributing to waste.”