The Harry Potter effect

There is a time for looking back with nostalgia – and to look ahead. Henrietta Alderman reflects on the diagnostic ability that comes with OCT

Henrietta Alderman

Let’s look back in time to the mid-1980s when most practices were brass plated, and window displays and advertising were frowned upon. The consulting rooms were relatively basic and needed thousands of pounds, rather than tens of thousands, to equip them.

The public’s perception of seeing an optometrist has also changed. There used to be an element of fear attached to a visit with cumbersome treatments and unattractive NHS spectacles. Now, for the most part, it has become an enjoyable ‘retail experience’ – but with the critically important clinical function often being undervalued.

Looking inside the eye was generally performed by using an ophthalmoscope, whereas now a camera or OCT gives magnified detail of the surface of the eye and layers of the retina never dreamt of previously. And visual fields are now measured by highly sensitive threshold screeners often carried out by support staff in addition to auto-refractors. However, the fact remains that refraction is still an art rather than just an empirical science and this is what sets it apart from all other procedures with the human touch still playing a critical part.

Technology continues to be the biggest disruptor in the optical sector outside the ongoing consolidation strategies for multiples and large groups. This is mirrored in other professions, but the scale and pace of change, alongside the changes in clinical practice, has resulted in a consulting room that is barely recognisable from a couple of decades ago.

"AOP expert clinical, regulatory and legal advice is only a phone call away"

The increase in diagnostic ability and clinical insight that comes with such sophisticated equipment as the OCT is enormous. This is clearly good for the patient and for the skills of practitioners, but only if the equipment is fully utilised and the results correctly interpreted. The AOP has a fantastic CET archive to help understand these issues. There are over seven OCT exams that can be taken for practice, a further six in the CET article archive, plus over 100 OT articles written about OCT.

Record keeping remains every bit as important today as it was in the 1980s. Our advice and support section of the website is there to help members practise safely. Some useful reference materials to help members include Optical Confederation guidance on Safe practice and minimising risks, Common clinical questions and On the record: a complaint has been made. And expert clinical, regulatory and legal advice is only a phone call away.

Do we look back with nostalgia or look forward with eager anticipation? On one side, life seemed much more straightforward 30 years ago. New diagnostic toys and new skills are always exciting – although wands and finger wiggling may sadly soon be relegated to the adventures of Harry Potter.