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Embracing technology

Up-to-date equipment, alongside good support and training, has played a role in attracting practitioners to their current positions, members have told us, writes Henrietta Alderman

Person having OCT

Practices today would be unrecognisable to the optometrist who retired 50 years ago. They would be taken aback at the range of equipment to assist with sight testing and detection of disease and abnormalities.

We all use technology in our personal and working lives which just a few short years ago would have seemed fanciful, or perhaps designed for others rather than ourselves.

It is not just about embracing change – embracing technology adds a very different dimension. For some it is completely natural, exciting and intuitive, but for others it is an undoubted challenge. And generally, the younger members of society and the profession are the ones most excited by the constant change and upgrades in technology.

What practitioners want

Our Optometrists’ Futures survey included a question about what attracted people to their current job. In total, 30% of respondents mentioned up-to-date equipment as one of the things that swayed their decision, alongside good support and training, reputation and long-term career prospects. Unlike older optometrists, the younger respondents put up-to-date equipment higher on their wish-list than the culture and values of the practice.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is probably the most notable of the developments in practice today. It was once a deeply-prized addition to just a few practices but is now widely available in practices across the country. The increase in diagnostic ability and clinical insight that comes with such sophisticated equipment is enormous. And this is good for patients and for the skills of practitioners. It is also good for the practice that is making the investment.

58% of the respondents to our Optometrists’ Futures survey said that they would like to acquire greater skills in advanced diagnostics such as OCT and Optomap. Employers who have this equipment in practice will find it easier to attract ambitious optometrists to join them.

There are so many different makes and models of OCT with a wide range of functionality. You need to evaluate which is the right one for your practice’s needs. Significant capital costs must add value to the business and have the specification to suit your practice. 100% Optical in January had all the equipment suppliers on hand to help guide you through the choices and to give tutorials on the added value features.

The capital investment decision is an important one, but there is also an important further investment to be made in staff training. It is worth referring back to OT’s OCTober edition last year and to the many articles, CET exams and archives that are held by the AOP for useful reference both when making equipment choices and up-skilling the practice to use the equipment to its full.

A successful practice has always worked as a team with dispensing opticians, optical assistants, receptionists and others to ensure that the best possible service is delivered to patients. The increased use of technology has also increased the need for greater team harmony as roles within practices change – as shown in OT’s new CPD content.

Ensuring that all our members are able to practice with confidence is key to the support that you can expect from the AOP – your legal and clinical advisers are here for you and policies are produced and education provided to assist you navigate your way through the ongoing changes in optometry practice.

Image credit: Getty