A joined-up strategy is the solution to assure the future of optometry, attendees at 100% Optical (12–14 January, ExCeL London) were told.
The disruptive change that the optical profession is facing and the barriers and opportunities for change were explored by clinical services director at Specsavers, Giles Edmonds.
Speaking during his Changing optometry for good presentation on the Main Stage, Mr Edmonds shared that practitioners need to be aware that today’s customers are more demanding.
“Socially, as customers we are much more aware and much more demanding. We want better quality and we want better service,” he said.
Mr Edmonds added that technology is a disruptor that must be addressed, citing Essilor and Luxottica’s investment in auto-refraction, as well as teleoptometry. Companies offering remote eye health exams present “huge disruptive change” to the industry, he said.
A joined-up strategy with optometrists and ophthalmologists working together is the solution so that the “future of optometry can be assured,” Mr Edmonds said.
“We need a joined-up strategy for community ophthalmology, one that is based on shared values and culture and that works for the whole profession,” he added, before handing over to managing director and co-founder of Newmedica, Darshak Shah.
Mr Shah said that eye health services have a duty to work together and change how the system works, adding that “slicker processes” make the experience less stressful for patients.
“For many chronic diseases especially, languishing on a pending list, having your routine monitoring appointment delayed months and sometimes years can lead to the worst outcome of sight loss,” he said, adding: “Sight loss which is and should be avoidable.”
He discussed Newmedica’s model of care that features multi-disciplinary teams and puts optometrists at the heart of its clinical delivery model.
Newmedica has risen from being the 14th largest provider of NHS ophthalmology services to fourth from 2017–2018. It will open 10 more locations in 2019–20, Mr Shah confirmed.
Consultant ophthalmologist and clinical director of Newmedica, Nigel Kirkpatrick, was on stage to discuss the opportunity to “do something radical and different.”
“I have no doubt that ophthalmology and optometry have to work together to design new and innovative pathways to deliver the quantity and quality of care our communities need,” he said.
Mr Kirkpatrick highlighted that it is time for “a new world of collaboration” where patients are managed in community ophthalmology clinics. He added that there are roles in community ophthalmology with optometrists linked into the service in indispensable ways.
The chief operating officer of the Local Optical Committee Support Unit, Richard Whittington, then updated 100% Optical attendees on its partnership with Newmedica.
He announced an extension of its national framework for cataract care for stable glaucoma monitoring, which will pilot in 2019.
The framework will enable optometrists to be able to work collaboratively with Newmedica ophthalmology consultants to manage patients with stable glaucoma in the community.
Mr Whittingdon said: “The intention is that once patients are categorised as stable by their consultant they will be offered the opportunity to have their follow-up appointments in the community at an accredited optical practice.”
“Here they will undergo all the appropriate diagnostic tests and be examined by a trained optometrist who will then make an interim decision on the next phase of their treatment using the Newmedica outcome framework. Newmedica consultants will review the test results virtually and sign off the patient’s treatment plan,” he explained.
Pictured left to right is Mr Whittington, Mr Shah and Mr Kirkpatrick at 100% Optical.