01. As a business, we first started to look at optical coherence tomography (OCT) seriously in 2011, during which we made our first investment in OCT devices for four of our stores.
We rolled out OCT in a few more branches in 2013, before embarking on a full group rollout in 2015. Recalling the optical landscape on the High Street back in 2011 and 2012, the more progressive independent practices had certainly already started adopting OCT as a clinical point of difference. As a small independent group, we also felt that technology, such as OCT, would provide us with an edge from a clinical perspective. It also very much aligned with our purpose of helping people live life to the full by providing the best possible eye care. Coinciding with this, some consultant ophthalmologists across the UK had begun recommending that their patients have OCTs and Optomap taken as a gold standard in eye care, so there was also a positive brand profile benefit.
02. It took 12-months to complete the rollout of OCT to all Leightons Opticians practices. We opted to purchase Nidek OCTs, which we felt was good value and could be integrated into our practice management system, Optix.
The supplier, Birmingham Optical, was also hugely supportive. Investing in OCT for all 34 Leightons stores was certainly a big commitment for us and demonstrated that we were putting clinical standards at the heart of our strategy to provide customers with access to clinically advanced eye care services.
When we first invested in OCT, we charged £40 per scan, or for £69 it was included as part of our Ultimate Eye Examination, which was the package around which we marketed it. There were no payment plans as such, unless you were a contact lens vision care plan member, in which case it was included free of charge. Today we have specific plans that are designed to help people access the advanced technology that we offer, such as OCT and dry eye appointments, as part of a simple monthly direct debit. The plans provide patients with access to a host of other benefits as well.
"We realised very quickly that the success of OCT would be based not just on the confidence of our optometrists performing the scans, but also on the confidence and motivation of all staff to talk about it"
03. While the device itself was key of course, so too was the training and additional time we provided to our optometrists to help grow their confidence and interpretation skills.
Have your say on our community forums
Has your practice invested in OCT yet? If so, what is your top tip for successfully introducing the technology to patients and why?
Following the delivery of an OCT to a store, all of our optometrists received clinical OCT training from Jason Higginbotham, director of medical and education at Birmingham Optical, and his team. This was, and continues to be, followed by internal training via our own professional services team.
We also have a telemedicine platform provided by Evolutio, which allows optometrists to send images and background information on a patient to a panel of experts who can review and provide feedback with a suggested diagnosis and management plan. The aim for this is to enhance the level care and service for our customers, and to educate our eye care professionals.
During the rollout we supported the training of all of our staff, clinical and support, on the benefits of OCT and created some simple customer communication tools for them to use to explain to patients why OCT is important.
Training also included a range of video tutorials on our intranet that were carried out by lead optometrists within the business. From a marketing perspective, we included copy and leaflets in our recall letters, had in-store point of sale materials produced, as well as featuring information online.
We realised very quickly that the success of OCT would be based not just on the confidence of our optometrists performing the scans, but also on the confidence and motivation of all staff to talk about it and educate customers about it.
04. We continue to receive customer feedback every week about the quality of care that is provided through our eye examinations and the technology being used during them.
However, it is fair to say that technology, such as OCT, is totally lost if it is not brought to life in a very human way, and this is where time is critical – our staff must have the time to listen, the time to empathise and the time to educate. Without this, OCT is just another fancy piece of technology that will not add value in the way it is intended.
05. Over the last two years, we have performed 39,731 scans.
Despite this being a little lower than the OCT conversion rate from total eye exams that we had hoped, we continue to see OCT as an integral component of our clinical offering. From a clinical perspective, it really has kept us at the forefront of where we felt we needed to be, and from a commercial perspective it has also been healthy.
We will continue to highlight OCT as part of our gold standard clinical offering and there will be more investment over the next 12 months to keep us innovating and differentiating.