Adapting to change

How the pandemic has turbo-charged technology and online learning in healthcare and optometry

man on video conferencing

This year, the majority of events I’ve attended have been digital or virtual.

2020 will be remembered for many things, including being the year that nearly all live events went from mass gatherings to being held via our our computer screens, televisions or cancelled altogether.

If the ways in which we socialise have changed it’s also certainly true that the way we work has dramatically changed in comparison to this time last year.

BBC Workplace reported on how the pandemic could change the workplace and founder and CEO of Zoom, Eric S Yuan, commented: “Healthcare, education, finance and businesses large and small are growing and improving with the help of video communications.”

As Mr Yuan stated the world of communications and technology within healthcare has improved tenfold. We’ve witnessed this across the optometry sector with telemedicine being more widely used, the improvement of technology solutions to support social distancing and the growth of webinars covering a variety of subjects.

It’s clear that the optometry profession has shown an incredible ability to adapt and change throughout the pandemic.

The pandemic has accelerated the use of technology in the optometry sector. In a recent OT news story, CooperVision’s Krupa Patel highlighted the opportunity for change amidst the shifting environment, as well as a challenge to “think differently.”

Remote consultations were one way practitioners have been able to respond, she suggested, with insights from the US market suggesting approximately 20% of patients who used telemedicine services feel the quality of care was similar to, or higher than, an in-person visit.

“So it begs the question, what part should telehealth play in practice going forwards?” Ms Patel asked. She added that with these new services, the typical patient journey has “evolved almost overnight.”

In our most recent Hitlist series we reported on the surge of remote consultations.

As optometrists adapt to the evolving challenges of COVID-19, suppliers have introduced solutions to support social distancing in practice, as well as remote triage. These products and services are wide ranging and fast developing.

One example featured was the video conferencing service, Attend Anywhere. Within optics, Attend Anywhere offers the ability to embed video consultations to a service’s webpage and see patients in virtual clinics via a video link. To read more take a look at our feature here.
For some optometrists, the impact of COVID-19 meant they were able to utilise technology that already existed but wasn’t previously an option for them. In our On the ground series independent optometrist, Colin Pettinger, commented: “For me, it has been an epiphany. I have suddenly realised that telemedicine follow-ups are an option, whereas in the past it was discarded because telemedicine was not funded by GOS.”

In addition to the rise of remote consultations and telemedicine, webinars and online learning are being offered at every turn. If the events haven’t been postponed or cancelled they’re going virtual.

One such event, which was cancelled, is the Hospital Optometrists Annual Conference which will return in 2021. In the interim, the AOP decided to provide a month-long series of virtual events for hospital optometrists and allied professionals.

There is still time to register and book the last webinar of the event, focused on hospital optometry and assessing and managing the impact of COVID-19 on cataract waiting lists and telemedicine helplines at Moorfields.

The webinar takes place on 24 November from 7pm – 8.15pm and is worth one Interactive CET point.

Another event to go fully virtual this year is the National Optical Conference (NOC). Sessions are also now available to book for all LOC members. These events will take place over 2 weeks from 23 November to 4 December.

As an AOP member or OT subscriber you can also take part in online learning through OT’s range of CET, VRICS and CET Video exams in order to collect CET points. This has always been an area that our members value highly and are available to take on our website.

Throughout the pandemic, optometrists have demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt and change to working environments, embracing technology and putting patients first in a fast and flexible way.

While our world might physically feel a little smaller at the moment with many aspects of our lives going digital, there is much to look forward to with the growth of technology in the health sector, opening up the possibility for new ways of working and thinking.