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Optical Dispensers Focus of Inaugural Specsavers Conference

mivision | 1 August 2017
From left: Stephen O’Leary, James Gibbins, Alicia Thompson, Chedy Kalach, Timothy Haigh, Greg Lee and Richard Couch (Specsavers Head of Dispensing Advancement Aust & NZ)
Specsavers has hosted an inaugural conference for its optical dispensers with high profile speakers from Australia and the United Kingdom. The roadshow style-event visited NSW, Queensland, New Zealand and Victoria during July with the final date set for Perth in the first few days of August.

Stephen O’Leary, Specsavers’ Director of Product and Dispensing Advancement, welcomed delegates to the organisation’s first Dispensing Conference, held in Darling Harbour, Sydney, at the International Convention Centre. He spoke about the importance of continued professional development for optical dispensers, in a deregulated environment and the need to continuously embrace change. Over nine years, more than 25 million spectacles have been dispensed by Specsavers’ optical dispensers in Australia and New Zealand.

The conference, which attracted a total of 490 optical dispensers to the four July events, comprised workshops on the evolving technology behind progressive lenses, how to take accurate measurements and manipulate frames for the perfect fit. Lectures on paediatric dispensing and dispensing for myopia followed.

Lens Evolution

Optical dispenser Greg Lee, with expertise in technical specification management, ophthalmic metrology and quality control, spoke about Zeiss individualised lenses to meet the needs of an ageing population. Mr. Lee outlined the evolution, technical specifications and advantages of progressive lenses. He told dispensers that the more patient data they put into the system, the larger and clearer the field of view would be as the lens would be optimised for every particular parameter. “Different lens designs suit different people, so you need to ask patients about the environment they work in, their seating position, the distance everything is away from them,” he said. Mr. Lee went on to provide recommendations for trouble shooting lens issues.

Measuring for Accuracy

Timothy Haigh, Senior teacher at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, analysed the current methods for taking measurements required to accurately dispense spectacles; ie. the Viktorin method; Pupillometers and digital measuring systems. He discussed the pros and cons of each method and said digital measuring systems in general, achieve a better, more precise result for patients because the system collects a greater number of data points, and takes measurements with the frame in the ‘as worn’ position; calculating convergence for near, pantoscopic tilt, wrap etc. However, Mr. Haigh stressed it was important to maintain skills to use all three systems because not all patients could be accurately measured using a digital measuring system. For example, patients with strabismus or very high ametropia should be measured using a Viktorin or pupilometer; very young patients and uncooperative patients with Viktorin, measuring canthus to canthus; and indeed if the dispenser has poor vision, he or she should use digital measurement or a pupilometer.

He said it can be possible to obtain different results from the different methods, and the as worn position is key to achieving accuracy for the individual patient. “The digital measuring device is more than just a measuring tool, it impresses customers and promotes sales of higher value lenses; it’s a good marketing and customer retention tool and it’s a ‘real pleasure’ to work with… It’s way more than retail theatre,” said Mr. Haigh.

Frame Manipulation

James Gibbins from the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing spoke about frame manipulation for the final fit. During a lively presentation, he said it was important to dissuade patients from choosing a frame before they had their refraction in case the frame they set their heart on was not suited to the final lens.  

Mr. Gibbins said when recommending frames it is important to keep in mind details including the patient’s facial physiology, the depth of the frame and thickness of lens required to achieve the prescription. It is also essential to be aware of whether the frame can be manipulated to achieve the final optimum fit.

Through role play, Mr. Gibbins demonstrated the most appropriate way to check the fit of a patient’s frame. He said adjustment pliers are an important piece of equipment – and recommended that every practice has angling pliers or nylon-jay pliers and pad adjusting pliers on hand.

The Journey of a Child Patient

Alicia Thompson, Director of Professional Examinations at the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, spoke about the journey of a child in dispensing, describing their typical stages of facial growth for girls and boys across different ethnic groups and how each stage needed to influence an optical dispenser’s eyewear recommendations. Ms. Thompson explained, with images, the movement of a child’s crest, which travels from below the line of the lower lid to above as they move from babyhood into their teens. This dramatically influences where the bridge of spectacles sits and therefore the fit. Ms. Thompson gave practical advice for recommending frame design features, possible adjustments and adaptations for fitting children. She challenged optical dispensers to sit on the floor of the practice to gain an insight into how frightening the space can be to a small child, and to consider how the practice could be made more child friendly. Ms. Thompson also spoke about the importance and rewarding aspects of dispensing for children with conditions such as Down's syndrome.

Managing Myopia

Professor Kathryn Rose from University of Technology Sydney spoke about current and potential methods to control myopia progression, including orthokeratology, novel contact lens designs and atropine. She said whereas Atropine 1.0 per cent had a significant treatment effect in the first year there was a rebound effect after the medication was stopped and patients were at risk of suffering severe side effects. Interestingly, she said a low dose atropine (0.01 per cent) had been shown to have longer term benefit for patients without the side effects. Professor Rose said of all treatments available to slow progression of myopia, low dose atropine appears to be most promising. She said further studies needed to be completed in novel contact lens designs.

Increasing the amount of time children spent outdoors may prevent onset of myopia although evidence supporting the effect on its progression was contradictory. She said it was important to take steps to control myopia quickly because a delay in onset can reduce the likelihood of progression to high myopia and therefore visual impairment.

Disseminating Knowledge

Charles Hornor, Director of Communications at Specsavers, said it was exciting to see the optical dispensers conference come together. “Specsavers is committed to the professional development of our optical dispensers. All of our dispensers commence their career with a three-day induction course and over 18 months progress, with continued training, through the stages of Optical Assistant one, two and three before undertaking the Cert IV in optical dispensing. Having placed more than 1000 individuals through the Cert IV courses since 2013 we have a really strong dispenser group – and the SDC is a great way of commencing a formal annual professional development cycle for qualified optical dispensers.”

Mr. Hornor said Specsavers was developing a structured CPD program for optical dispensers that would be introduced in the coming months. “Within this deregulated yet increasingly technical sector, formal continued education is essential to ensure patients receive the highest level of eye care while optical dispensers further develop skills and knowledge.”