Zion Eye changes free monthly LASIK contest theme and offers telemedicine to emphasize social distancing

Stock image, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Although good habits like coughing into our elbows and frequent hand washing are always effective methods to keep us healthy, most experts say that during the current pandemic, social distancing is the best way to keep the coronavirus at bay.

Patient at Zion Eye Institute, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Zion Eye, St. George News

Zachary Cox, administrator at Zion Eye Institute, said everyone is having to adjust in some way to the new “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive Gov. Gary Herbert implemented to slow the growing pandemic. He told St. George News that the community is in the fight together, and at Zion Eye, they have been trying to find ways they can help too.

“We want to promote the social distancing and do what we can to help the community out in this tough time,” he said. “We’re trying to boost the morale of Southern Utah.”

Zion Eye Institute began 2020 by celebrating the dawn of the new decade with a monthly contest to give away 20 free LASIK surgeries throughout the year. The promotion originally asked local residents to submit posts or short essays to the Zion Eye Institute Facebook page describing “How I could benefit from eye surgery” or “How LASIK will change my life.”

However, with everything that has been going on lately, Cox said that in April they are changing things up a bit and now inviting community members to submit photos of the interesting ways they are spending their time in self-isolation during the shutdown. People can submit individually or as a family, and the best photo will win this month’s prize.

“It’s a fun way to practice social distancing,” he said, “and also win free LASIK.”

Around 700,000 LASIK eye surgeries are performed every year. In the past 20 years, the procedure has helped over 10 million Americans eliminate the need for glasses and corrective lenses. Zion Eye’s fellowship trained cornea specialist, Dr. Jayson Edwards, says it can be used to treat vision refractive errors, including nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.

During the LASIK procedure, Edwards creates a hinged partial thickness corneal flap and uses a microkeratome blade or laser to gently lift the flap and expose the underlying tissue. Once exposed, a laser reshapes the cornea to correct the vision problem, and the flap is laid back down to begin healing immediately.

Edwards previously told St. George News they have seen incredible success among their patients, with about 98% seeing 20/20 the next day.

“It’s a great time to say, ‘OK, I’m done with contacts. I’m done with glasses,'” Edwards said.

Winners of the monthly free LASIK contest may use the procedure on themselves or nominate friends or loved ones who are suffering with vision problems. However, with all elective medical procedures currently on hold due to Utah Department of Health regulations, the procedure for this month’s winner will be scheduled for after everything calms back down.

Entries are due May 1, and photos must be original, family-friendly and taken within the last two weeks, Cox said. Along with posting their “social distancing” photo on the contest post on Zion Eye’s Facebook page, an entry can also be submitted on the Zion Eye Institute website as they fill out the form for LASIK screening.

“Its just a way for people that don’t have Facebook to still participate,” Cox said.

Another way Zion Eye is promoting social distancing is by offering telemedicine services to assist their patients.

Promotional image for “Stay Home, Stay Safe” telemedicine service by Zion Eye Institute | Image courtesy of Zion Eye Institute, St. George News

Cox said telemedicine is covered by most insurance companies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and people can easily apply for a consultation with a physician on their website.

Telemedicine can be a life saver for people who are unable to be out in public during these trying times. Accidents happen everyday, like when a child gets hit in the eye with a flying ball, Cox said, and sometimes parents aren’t sure whether it is time for a trip to the emergency room.

“If you have a question or just don’t know what to do, we can actually have a one-on-one consult with our doctor, and they can find out if its an emergency or whether they need to come in and see us for help,” he said.

Depending on how the current situation develops, the new telemedicine service may be offered indefinitely.

An application for a telemedicine consultation can be found online here.

For more information about LASIK or other options at Zion Eye Institute, visit their website. You can also call for an appointment today at 435-656-2020.

Written by ANDREW PINCKNEY, St. George News.

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