Behind the brand

Refocusing during crisis

CooperVision’s newly appointed country manager, UK & Ireland, Doug Bairner, outlines how the company has operated during COVID-19 and how it aims to approach the next few months

e-learning on laptop
As the lockdown measures in the UK begin to ease and optometrists begin to consider a future return to practice, Doug Bairner, country manager, UK & Ireland, for CooperVision tells OT how the company responded to the outbreak, and how it plans to support optometrists going forwards.

What makes CooperVision unique?

CooperVision is a ‘small, large’ company and it is this spirit that helps us provide advantages to both our contact lens wearers and the eye care professionals who work with us. While we’re one of the largest manufacturers of soft contact lenses in the world, we’ve never lost the entrepreneurial spirit that drives us to innovate. We feel that by collaborating and listening to others, we can accomplish far more.

The contact lens category is a very exciting category to work in. Contact lenses are a fundamental part of life for wearers, and not only does it provide patients with emotional and physical benefits, but it is also a hugely expandable category, having the potential to provide positive financial benefits to practice as well.

How has COVID-19 affected CooperVision?

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has created an unprecedented and extremely challenging set of circumstances. CooperVision is focusing its resources on providing support to its employees, customers, contact lens wearers and its wider communities.

CooperVision continues to have exceptional service levels and is serving all markets. We have implemented continuity plans to help reduce the risk of interruption by strategically positioning supply to mitigate any potential disruption in production. The company has manufacturing, packaging and distribution sites in multiple locations around the world – and with key products being manufactured in different facilities simultaneously, CooperVision has multiple options to help support continuity of supply.

Employee safety is of paramount importance and CooperVision sites have implemented enhanced cleaning protocols and additional processes to protect its workforce, including measures to provide for social distancing within its operations. Where possible, employees are working from home.

CooperVision is keen to support its partners at this challenging time and has talked with many practitioners as the situation has evolved, but more importantly we are listening. The company’s teams are examining every area of its business to identify opportunities to support customers.

With in-store pick up of contact lenses being difficult at this time, direct-to-patient home deliveries are more practical and convenient for both eye care professionals and patients. The established VisionXtra scheme continues to support home deliveries for patients in the UK and CooperVision is encouraging the use of this service, which has also launched in the Republic of Ireland.

What do you hope the launch of the CooperVision Learning Academy has provided practitioners?

The launch of the e-learning platform, the CooperVision Learning Academy, was brought forward to support staff training as many practices close their doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We understand that practices now have an unexpected opportunity to reflect on their business and form plans for the future, so it is important we support them. This is an unnerving period of change for everyone at the moment, but time away from the daily routine is also an opportunity for self-development, to improve our knowledge and to focus on the future.

The free-to-access site hosts online training courses aimed at developing the communication, clinical and technical skills of clinical and retail staff in optical practices across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

In addition to these courses, the company has also created a free webinar series entitled ‘Turn Self-isolation into Self-education.’ Through the series eye care professionals can hear from experts on topics of interest, with some of the webinars offering CET points. Its opening broadcast, ‘COVID-19 and contact lenses – what eye care professionals should know,’ featuring Professor James Wolffsohn, professor of optometry at Aston University, attracted almost 2000 registrations. This reinforces our mission to empower practitioners with the latest evidence-based clinical guidance on contact lens wear during these unprecedented times.

CooperVision are also proud to co-sponsor the open-access online resource, led by the Centre of Ocular Research, Waterloo, Canada.

What has been your latest product launch and what makes it stand out?

Myopia is a global challenge from a healthcare perspective and is a key challenge for CooperVision to address. The prevalence of myopia is projected to increase from approximately two billion people worldwide in 2010 to almost five billion people in 20501.

MiSight 1 day is the world's first soft contact lens proven to significantly slow the progression of myopia in children2 and can be used in everyday practice without the need for additional equipment. The CooperVision brand promise is to ‘help change the way people see,’ and our work with MiSight is all about changing people’s lives.

CooperVision UK continues to support practitioners in their myopia journey during this time with ongoing myopia management education. The first is a case studies online peer discussion session, offering interactive CET points. Using video conferencing, this small group session will use patient case studies to discuss both clinical decision making and communication in myopia management. Secondly, CooperVision has set up one-to-one myopia management sessions as an opportunity for practitioners to build their knowledge and skills. The informal sessions with industry experts, Indie Grewal or Wendy Sethi, focus on your interests, whether that is clinical studies, communicating with parents, fitting kids, establishing a myopia management practice or asking the questions you have about myopia management.

We have also just increased the range of parameters for the clariti 1 day toric lens with round the clock axes to meet the needs of even more patients.

What are the company’s main considerations for the next 12 months?

The industry is facing an unprecedented challenge right now; we know for many practices contact lens direct debit was their chief source of income while doors were shut. In the short-term the focus needs to be on helping our customers retain their existing contact lens patient base, by increasing direct to patient delivery capabilities, reminding patients how to ensure that their contact lens wear is safe and hygienic, and addressing specific patient subscription challenges.

As stores reopen it is important to work with customers to help get patients back into practice safely and efficiently to get through the backlog. Getting back to some level of contact lens fitting and aftercare normality will be key to the health of contact lens patients and also to practices’ financial health.