Locum optometrist guide

Let’s talk about… OCT

Experts share their tips on how locums can harness optical coherence tomography to provide excellent patient care

locum guide feature1

Any optometrist who has seen the look of wonder on a patient’s face when they are shown the depths of their retina for the first time understands the impact of optical coherence tomography (OCT).

The technology provides optometrists and other eye care providers with more information about their patients’ eyes than ever before.

But how can locum optometrists sift through this data to make the most appropriate decisions about patient care? OT spoke with OCT experts about how optometrists can refine their use of the technology.

Always adapting

OCT product manager for Haag-Streit UK, Jacqui Kenyon, highlighted that one of the most challenging aspects of OCT for locums is that they may be switching between different devices depending on what practice they are in.

She emphasised the importance of practice staff providing guidance to locums on the equipment that is available.

“All OCT devices offer different software packages, so the locum needs support from the practice to ensure they are achieving good quality scans,” she said.

Topcon Healthcare clinical affairs specialist, Laura Pigula, also emphasised the importance of locums being able to capture high-quality scans when using OCT.
Confidence in patient positioning and instruction, as well as understanding the benefits of each type of scan for different patients, is key.

“Use a methodical approach to interpreting the scans,” she recommended.

Pigula highlighted the benefits of becoming familiar with the retinal layers and where specific pathologies are located within the retina.

Locum optometrists should consider OCT scans in the broader context of other clinical findings, such as patient history, visual acuity and visual fields

“Always use the OCT results as guidance – never refer just based on OCT findings,” Pigula advised.

Prioritising learning

Both Kenyon and Pigula recommend that locum optometrists keep their OCT knowledge up-to-date by making use of the diverse range of education platforms on offer.

Different OCT manufacturers provide practices that purchase their equipment with online platforms where optometrists can assess and improve their skills – such as the Optovue Academy and Topcon Healthcare University.

Optometrists can gain insight on the latest developments and hands on experience with OCT devices at optical conferences, while the Ophthalmic Imaging Association also holds an annual conference.

“Continuous learning in both advances in imaging techniques and new ways to diagnose different pathologies is of benefit to ensure you make the most out of your machine and use it to its full potential,” Pigula highlighted.

The benefits of OCT

For Pete Sharma, a locum based in Maidenhead and Windsor, OCT machines offer an extra tool for diagnosis and management.

“It helps us to monitor pathology and enables me to provide better referrals going forward,” he said.

Locum optometrist, Rebecca Rushton, noted that OCT devices help clinicians to pick up pathology that might otherwise be missed.

“Just today I found an epiretinal membrane and vitreomacular traction, both of which were asymptomatic,” she shared with OT.

“It can be useful for confirming visual field defects or queries about optic nerve heads too,” she added.

Rushton highlighted that OCT images are useful when explaining ocular health to patients and helps to reinforce the idea that they have had a thorough eye examination.

“I really believe that OCT empowers patients and increases loyalty to the practice,” she said.

When Rushton first started using OCT, she had a phone call with the supplier to learn about the technology.

“They explained some features which I'd never have found on my own. A lot of optometrists seem nervous about using OCT but most of what you see is common sense,” she emphasised.

Pigula highlighted that taking OCT scans is a non-invasive and quick procedure that has the potential to provide a better understanding of potential pathology than fundus photography or Volk.

“It can assist with a referral as evidence and guidance, but it can also prevent a referral due to being able to clarify a non-urgent reason why a patient’s vision has deteriorated,” she explained.