This has been a year of change for the AOP, much of which has been driven by the need to keep up or ahead of technology in supporting our members.
AOP members and OT subscribers will have experienced the online delivery of the journal, no doubt on many different phones, tablets and computers. We are aware that busy people need to be able to access what they want when they want it and increasingly these will be snatched moments whilst travelling or on a break at work. Our online developments have been made with that in mind.
In some areas, 2016 will be a consolidation year as we develop and make best use of the technology that we have invested in – for policy work, member services, communication and member engagement. The new website has a range of new features designed to help members at various stages in their careers, from tools for locums and pre-registration students, to CET tracking, patient leaflets and a video on the importance of sight tests for members to use in their practices. And this is just the start.
The AOP Council changes which were introduced in 2015 were also very dependent on technology. Council representatives now have the mechanism to communicate with their constituents. The geographical and general forums enable every member to have a voice, post views, join the policy debate and help in the development of AOP positions.
The AOP is not alone in making the best use of technology and the optical sector has never been slow to innovate. As a founder member of the Optical Confederation (OC), we have been taking a look into the future through the Foresight project. This project will be delivering its outcomes in 2016 and the AOP will be working with Council to consider possible impacts and how it can prepare us for the future.
"Technology brings the excitement of new opportunities and the AOP will be ensuring that our own innovations and online strategies are built upon for the benefit of members"
The project has looked at worldwide technology and innovation, and considered what effect it would have on business models. The second stage of the project investigates how those learnings will impact on education and regulation.
Information technology is certainly at the forefront of the minds of the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee and the OC IT committee. A comprehensive bid has been submitted for IT connectivity to network community optical providers with the rest of the NHS and care system, particularly GPs and hospitals. If successful, it would establish the necessary IT infrastructure to connect all practices in England to the NHS system. This is a long overdue necessity which, if achieved, would enable optometrists to deliver more urgent and routine care outside hospitals and play a wider role in reducing pressures on GPs, A&E and hospital eye services.
Technology brings the excitement of new opportunities and the AOP will be ensuring that our own innovations and online strategies are built upon for the benefit of members. And we will be alert to changes in the sector and ready to advise and help members. But it is also good to know that technology doesn’t trump everything and that the OT monthly paper journal is a highly valued part of the membership and subscriber package, and will continue to be so during 2016 and for many years to come.