Specsavers Optometry Director for Australia and New Zealand, Peter Larsen, has been appointed to the role of Group Eye Health Strategy Director with responsibility for all markets.
The newly created role is based at Specsavers’ central support office in the UK’s Channel Islands and will introduce all Specsavers markets to the model of integrated eye care, health data, equipment, technology, training and collaboration that has been successfully implemented in the Australian and NZ markets over the past 12 years. In this role, Mr Larsen will focus on the systematic improvement of eye health outcomes for Specsavers’ 35 million active customers, and the creation of a commercially sustainable eye care model that caters to the needs of optometrists, medical practitioners and health funders.
Speaking of the appointment, Doug Perkins, Specsavers co-founder said, “Peter has been instrumental in creating and leading the optometry agenda in Australia and New Zealand. In his new global role, his experience will be an invaluable resource to our whole business, ensuring all of our regions are working together to deliver better health outcomes for millions of patients.”
A founding partner responsible for bringing Specsavers to Australia in 2007, Mr Larsen has instigated significant change in optometry. As a board member of CERA, he and then-CERA managing director Professor Jonathan Crowston originated the idea and funding for the Oculo e-referral platform. At a time when the relationship between optometry and ophthalmology was strained, Mr Larsen fostered collaborative links with RANZCO under a formal Memorandum of Understanding, contributing to the definition of referral guidelines between optometrists and ophthalmologists.
The profession’s leaders have acknowledged Mr Larsen’s strong leadership and commitment to improving eye health outcomes.
Professor Crowston said he had made “major contributions to the widespread adoption of new technologies, education and collaborative eye care models. I am delighted that in his new role he will be taking these approaches to help reduce avoidable blindness on a global scale.”
Associate Professor Angus Turner acknowledged his “leadership in Australia, helping… telehealth progress, improved digital referral processes and imaging technology.”
David Andrews, CEO of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) highlighted Mr Larsen’s work in bringing optometry and ophthalmology together. “Peter has championed a collaborative approach during his time at Specsavers in Australia and New Zealand, working with both RANZCO at an organisational level and ophthalmologists on an individual level… The support that Peter and Specsavers gave to the RANZCO referral pathways project was valuable in rolling out best practice guidelines to Specsavers’ optometrists, and we look forward to building on this work.”
Over ten years, Mr Larsen has been responsible for developing a health strategy focussed on measurably improving patient outcomes, lifting eye disease detection and referral rates, and enhancing optometry professional development.
This has led to the doubling of glaucoma detection1 and a two year, AU$40 million investment to introduce optical coherence tomography (OCT) into every Specsavers practice. OCT is now used as a standard element of patient care and resulting eye health data is shared with government, health professions and all eye health stakeholders.
Oculo CEO Dr Kate Taylor said Mr Larsen’s leadership in using technology to systematically collect information means there is now an evidence base to inform clinical and policy discussions. “As Oculo engages with partners outside of Australia and New Zealand, we see that Australia is leading the world with this approach,” she said.
Mr Larsen’s work has also helped ensure the viability of KeepSight, a program launched this year, targeted at eradicating avoidable blindness caused by diabetes-related eye disease.
“As a foundational member of the KeepSight steering committee, Peter’s leadership, coupled with Specsaver’s five year financial commitment to the program, were instrumental in securing Commonwealth government support,” commented Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden, who initiated the program. “He has worked hard to integrate KeepSight into standard clinical care pathways so that the program may be sustainable in the long term.”
Mr Larsen said he is “very excited” to be taking a systematic model for eye care to Specsavers’ European markets.“Our approach and transparent manner is enabling eye health improvements and outcomes that have never been achieved before on such a large scale. That is what drives me and has driven me to take on this role. And as our knowledge base grows, it is important that we use the data and results of this work to demonstrate measurable change and prove the value of optometry to public health funders, whether they be in Aus/NZ, UK or European markets.”
Optometrist Dr Ben Ashby, currently Specsavers’ Director of Professional Advancement for Australia and New Zealand, will take on the Director of Optometry role on 1 August. Dr Ashby has worked alongside Peter Larsen for five years and has been instrumental in implementing the Specsavers eye health strategy.
- mivision, Issue 142 February 2019, page 30–33