The impact of technology on optics

A study commissioned by the Optical Confederation and the College of Optometrists will assess the impact of technology on the optical sector

04 Mar 2015 by Ryan O'Hare

A new project which aims to assess the impact of technology on the optical sector has been commissioned by the Optical Confederation (OC) and the College of Optometrists with funding from the Central (LOC) Fund.

The £100,000 ‘Foresight Project’ will look at developing technologies and the potential for disruption of the business models, education and regulation of optics.

The concept was originally proposed by director of the Federation of (Ophthalmic and Dispensing) Opticians and member of the OC Leaders’ Group, Alan Tinger, who will chair the project’s oversight group.

“This is a very timely and important piece of work, with online and mobile digital health technologies developing at an exponential rate,” said Mr Tinger.

The research will be carried out in four phases, with the initial phase scanning the horizon for future technologies, assessing the certainty of them making it to market and user adoption, their potential for disruption, as well as impact on behaviours of the public, professionals and manufacturers.

The later phases will reportedly assess the effect of these technologies on the business models in optics, as well as the impact on education and regulation across the professions.

Mr Tinger explained: “All innovation has the potential to be disruptive, so it is vital for us to understand the impact of developments on the sector, and in particular what they could mean for all the professional groups, plan ahead and make the findings available to the sector so that people can be as well informed as they can be about the possible future.”

He added: “We will also be taking into account the changing demographic make-up of the UK, which is a challenge for the whole of the health sector.”

Independent think tank, 2020Health, has been commissioned to carry out the research underpinning the project.

Chief executive of 2020Health, Julia Manning, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Optical Confederation, the College and the Central (LOC) Fund on this initiative. As a think tank we have spent some years looking at emerging digital technology and identifying disruptive and enabling technologies.

“Considering technological and behavioural trends and their impact on society and healthcare is something that every professional organisation should be doing.

Ms Manning added: “With our smartphones turning into diagnostic, testing and sensing devices, this era of technological development is being likened to the Gutenberg Press for its potential to emancipate consumers, and being dubbed the ‘second industrial revolution’ due to its impact on current ways of working. Professionals will need to adapt to very different ways of working but they, patients and health care systems and society should all benefit.”

Mr Tinger told OT: “Technology can be both creative and destructive. For instance, if your business was historically developing camera film; it no longer exists. However, mobile phone and Internet-based businesses, which did not exist 25 years ago, are now some of the largest businesses in the world.

“Standing still in professions and business means being left behind, which is not an option. Moving forward requires updating skills at all levels and ensuring that regulation promotes, rather than stifles, creative thinking. The easy option is to think ‘how will change in optics adversely affect me?’ But the better option is to think ‘what opportunities will it bring for me and my patients?’”

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