Clinical trial patients impacted by rare diseases and vision loss already have a lot on their plate, so attending numerous medical appointments each month shouldn’t add to the stress. That's why 20/20 Onsite is on a mission to make their care experience more convenient, efficient, and enjoyable by bringing treatment closer to home. What makes our mission even more special is when our employees have a personal passion for creating better vision care experiences for patients.
Female 20/20 Onsite patient getting an eye exam on our Mobile Vision Clinic.
In this employee spotlight with Clinic Manager Louie Hernandez, learn how 20/20 Onsite creates an unrivaled experience for patients impacted by rare diseases and vision loss – including some insights into his personal experience supporting a loved one with diabetic retinopathy.
Describe your role and responsibilities at 20/20 Onsite.
I manage the day-to-day operations at clinical trial sites and oversee patient care. I also maintain accurate patient records and ensure patient confidentiality, in addition to collaborating with healthcare professionals to ensure that we provide the best possible care for patients.
Currently, I'm working on a dry eye study that's located in California. Our team there has been working closely with trial staff and subjects to provide comprehensive eye exams. We’re assessing for any effects of the eyedrops and checking for cataracts in the patients' eyes.
Tell us about your background. What led you to a career in eye care and clinical research?
When I was just 18 years old, I started working as an ophthalmic tech for a local ophthalmologist. A good friend of mine had worked there, so that’s how I knew they were hiring. Once I started working for that practice I knew that ophthalmology/optometry was right for me. I would see patients’ faces light up when they were given their new prescriptions. Keep in mind, some of these patients never had eye exams before. The opportunity to provide people with a service that brings such joy is absolutely amazing. It's a very fulfilling job.
Louie Hernandez next to optometry equipment.
Why is it important to you to raise awareness about diabetes-related eye diseases?
My mother had been insulin dependent since the age of 22. Before her recent passing, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy which also included diabetic edema. This ultimately caused her to lose her central vision. I sat with her during many appointments as her retina specialist administered her treatment via injections.
My mother had many complications with this disease. Most people don't show symptoms of eye-related problems until it's too late, so it often goes unnoticed. Raising awareness about this disease can help people get treatment to avoid vision loss and blindness.
How could your mother’s treatment have been easier and more patient-first?
When my mother was first diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, she experienced a range of emotions from anxiety to fear and even frustration. As a result of her vision loss, she had to adjust to many lifestyle changes. Trying to navigate the healthcare system and locate proper treatment was a very confusing and overwhelming process for her.
I think these healthcare providers could have implemented a more holistic approach to treatment – considering the physical, mental, and emotional needs of patients. My mother’s treatment could have been improved with a more personalized, patient-first approach. The healthcare system can be wildly confusing for patients. Doctors and providers should be educating and empowering their patients every step of the way.
How can diabetes affect vision?
Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to process sugar into energy. When you have diabetes, the body does not produce insulin – the hormone delivering glucose (blood sugar) to the cells in your body. A build-up of glucose in the bloodstream can lead to damage in blood vessels and nerves throughout the body. In turn, diabetes can affect your eyes, causing blurred vision and other eye diseases. These conditions include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Diabetic retinopathy, the condition my mother had, can cause vision loss and blindness in people with diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to swelling and leaking of fluid. As the leading cause of blindness in adults with no known cure, prevention is essential.
Diabetes and diabetic retinopathy can cause a serious eye problem called diabetic macular edema, tiny microaneurysms that form in the blood vessels and leak fluid in the retina, causing the macula that controls your vision to swell.
How is 20/20 Onsite making it easier for patients to get critical treatment for diseases like this?
20/20 Onsite plays a tremendous role since our model is the future of modernized medicine. Our patient-first approach brings the eye exam directly to patients in the Boston area and beyond. When people living in rural areas struggle to access good healthcare, 20/20 Onsite is able to provide our unrivaled patient experience from the comfort of their homes. Not only are we providing vision care, but we’re introducing new, potentially life-saving treatments to the public through clinical trials. It’s pretty amazing.
How does 20/20 Onsite support the search for treatments for diabetic eye diseases?
Most people don’t realize that a number of non-ophthalmic related diseases can be found during an eye exam such as high blood pressure, thyroid disease, brain tumors, and high cholesterol. A comprehensive eye exam can even detect multiple types of cancer that may be lurking in a patient. Our extremely knowledgeable staff, state-of-the-art technology, and three patient-centric delivery models go above and beyond for clinical trials and their patients. One example is that we’ve literally dropped our Mobile Vision Pod on-site at this trial site in California, to get these patients the care they need and to get these medications out on the market.
How can biopharma leaders raise awareness about these often-overlooked eye diseases and make it easier for patients to enroll in clinical trials?
Biopharma leaders can raise awareness by educating the public about the risks associated with the disease, advocating for better access to treatments and preventative measures, and supporting research into new treatments and cures. In addition, they should raise awareness through public campaigns, social media, and other forms of communication to educate the public.
If you have an upcoming clinical trial that requires special vision care or assessments for diabetic patients, 20/20 Onsite’s clinical program services may be a great option. Get in touch with us today so we can get the conversation started.