Imagine being in a position to influence your profession at a pivotal time in its history. The good news is that as an optometrist, right now, you are.
Right now, we are experiencing the biggest disruption to eye care since the invention of distance vision spectacles – the ability to slow the progression of myopia. In a time when innovation and change is the norm, optometrists have an opportunity to lead the way in eye care, and to reshape and grow their practice, by providing new standards and models of care for patients with myopia.
The rapid increase in myopia prevalence and the evolution in research, products and evidence based myopia management strategies, means up to date professional development is more vital than ever.
One of the challenges that practitioners face is how to comprehend the evidence around different myopia management strategies. This is typically contained in disparate scientific journals, although continued efforts are being made to draw this knowledge together in platforms like editorials, conference presentations and blogs.
Still, compilation and synthesis of the evidence base, into digestible chunks integrated with interactive, practical case studies, has long been needed.
In July 2017, Brien Holden Vision Institute launched the global online Myopia Management Education Program (MMEP) to help address this gap. The first ‘Managing Myopia’ (MM) course was developed by our leading education and myopia experts and features the University of New South Wales, University of Houston and State University of New York, as well as leading myopia management clinicians such as Drs. Kate Gifford and Thomas Aller.
LEARNING FROM OUR LEARNING
Over 2,000 optometrists from many countries around the world have now completed the online course, the majority from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. It’s been an interesting and highly rewarding experience as an educator, and some of the insights we’ve gathered from practitioners are worth sharing.
A survey of the current MM course found that over 50 per cent of optometrists globally have noticed an increase of patients with myopia in the last 12 months. Furthermore, we have learned that 75 per cent are very concerned about the predicted rise in myopia by 2050.
Overall, we’ve found that practitioners believe that the adoption of myopia management strategies is an opportunity to deliver better patient care, and grow their practices. However, they are typically busy and inundated with information, and are desperately seeking a single source of professional myopia education that brings together the relevant evidence, and its practical applications.
The majority of practitioners who come into the Managing Myopia course are using single vision spectacles and contact lenses as the main modality in addressing myopia. Noticeably, after completing the course, optometrists across the board are changing their approach to manage rather than correct myopia, with the most preferred modalities initially being multifocal soft contact lenses and spectacle options.
ONLINE LEARNING PROVING POPULAR
Practitioners tell us they are looking to understand the big picture on myopia management, with a strong evidence base and presented in an independent way, as opposed to being product-based. For many, traditional modes of training such as conferences are not always practical or the most effective way to gain and retain information. They find the online mode of delivery provides opportunities for interaction that may not be available through other professional development approaches. They also enjoy the opportunity to connect online with peers and find out about other methods being used in practice. And they appreciate the opportunity to pose questions to global leaders in a safe, encouraging environment.
The Institute’s online Managing Myopia course was developed to be self-paced, enabling participants to revisit case studies or individual videos as many times and whenever they like during their course. This format allows practitioners to go into greater depth than is possible in a typical one-hour session at a conference, which can be more engaging for learners.
Each case study may take 10 to 15 minutes and can be completed while a practitioner has a break in their schedule or at any other convenient time. Course notes provide a useful reference when seeing patients.
MEETING THE NEED
The success of the Managing Myopia course led Brien Holden Vision Institute to develop a second course in the MMEP. Complex Cases, launched in November, allows practitioners to further extend their skills so that they are more equipped to manage less straightforward myopia patients.
In addition to adopting myopia management strategies, it is clear there is a strong demand among practitioners for knowledge and support on how to adapt their practice in response to this monumental change. For example, practitioners want to know how they can harness the increasing prevalence of myopia to grow their business. They also want to understand the planning, staff training, communications and marketing needed to make myopia management in practise, a success.
Brien Holden Vision Institute is currently planning an online course on the business of managing myopia. Stay tuned in 2019 for an announcement, and add your name to the waiting list (www.surveymonkey.com/r/myopiainterest) if you would like to be notified when courses become available.
Judith Stern is the Global Director of Brien Holden Vision Institute Academy. Ms. Stern has 15 years training and educator experience in the eye care field, including development and delivery of numerous training programs for optometry educators and other eye health professionals. She has also been a senior research optometrist and worked in private optometric practice in Sydney.
Stephen Davis is Communications Manager and Project Officer for Brien Holden Vision Institute.