On 4 December 2018, Optometry Australia announced its vision for optometry, optometrists, and community eye health in 2040. Back then, just 14 months ago, it seemed so far away. But time has a habit of marching on and before you know it, we’ll be there. mivision caught up with Optometry Australia to find out how plans for 2040 are progressing.
Optometry Australia initiated the 2040 strategy in response to members’ concerns about increasingly rapid change associated with technological, economic, political and demographic influences. These changes were already disrupting tried and true optometry practice models, working conditions, patient eye care, and clinician training requirements and communication. Early career optometrists in particular, wanted to know what their careers would look like in 2040.
A key priority is leading and supporting the sector to embrace the opportunities implicit in these emerging trends for the benefit of the community and the profession
Optometry Australia had identified seven emergent trends as most likely to shape the profession’s future:
- Consistently evolving technology,
- Enlarged scope of practice,
- Consumer centric care coupled with high consumer participation,
- Changes to social demographics,
- Big data,
- Alternative models of funding, and
- A changing optometry workforce.
According to Lyn Brodie, CEO of Optometry Australia, during 2018 the organisation had “conducted a comprehensive environmental scan and engaged with members and stakeholders (including industry suppliers, ophthalmologists, universities, industry associations, and the regulators) to test that the key emergent trends we identified aligned with their perspectives and experiences. We also consulted broadly to gain insight on how these emerging trends may shape the future of eye health and optometry”.
Together, the members and stakeholders came up with three possible scenarios, then settled upon one bold but viable vision, as described in mivision, February 2019:
“Within this vision of the future, it’s likely that we will have two ‘types’ of optometry practitioner. Those who continue with a traditional retail oriented shop front, and those who become integrated into a more holistic clinical system of collaborative health care. The latter may choose to work in clinical practices alongside ophthalmologists, in health centres that offer audiology, eye health and general practitioner services, or other disease specific centres. A diabetes clinic for instance, may offer access to general practitioners, dieticians, endocrinologists, podiatrists, optometrists and ophthalmologists.”
At that time, Lyn Brodie said, “having identified the most viable plan… we have a clear direction – this plan will not sit on the shelf.”
Indeed, the plan has been embraced by the organisation, its board and its members and throughout 2019, Optometry Australia has engaged in ongoing environmental scanning, keeping an eye on developments in optometry and the broader health care space both in Australia and internationally.
we have recently initiated work to test approaches to extracting and analysing de-identified data from individual practices
Ms Brodie said work completed in 2019 had confirmed the significance of the identified key emerging trends shaping the future of optometry.
“Perhaps most notable has been the pace of the development of clinical technologies. There are, for example, many exciting diagnostic technologies in varying stages of development and testing. These offer potential, if well integrated into appropriate care pathways, to enhance access to timely care across the country,” she said.
Darrell Baker, National President of Optometry Australia, said it is important to continue monitoring these trends while at the same time, taking proactive steps towards the future.
“A key priority is leading and supporting the sector to embrace the opportunities implicit in these emerging trends for the benefit of the community and the profession. This requires concerted action now, and we have already begun taking key steps to support the sector’s transition.
“As the national professional body that represents the largest community of optometrists in Australia, it’s also important that we actively support our members individually, and collectively, to move to what will be a new paradigm of clinical and practice care and management by 2040. To us, it is critical that our members feel supported and that they are working with us to take control of their future. It is shoring up this pathway that will be a key focus of our work in 2020.”
INSTITUTE OF EXCELLENCE LAUNCHED
One key area of member support that Optometry Australia was keen to quickly build on in 2019 was education. In August, the organisation launched a new online ‘destination’ that is now home to a comprehensive suite of quality resources and CPD courses that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
Optometry Australia’s Institute of Excellence takes a prominent place within the organisation’s new website, highlighting its promise to provide optimal member value. It has been designed with flexibility to adapt to new CPD requirements which will be launched in December this year by the Optometry Board of Australia (OBA).
“Our member response to Optometry Australia’s Institute of Excellence and to the redevelopment of our website has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Ms Brodie.
“We have been very encouraged by the consistently high traffic both our website and the Institute of Excellence receive, as this suggests members are finding them valuable sources of education and information.”
She said the Institute of Excellence would continue to be expanded upon this year, with new, interactive, online CPD options and continuation of Optometry Australia’s popular webcast series.
“As we move toward December 2020, when the OBA’s CPD requirements change, we will also be providing members with all the information and resources they need to adapt to these changes,” added Ms Brodie.
CPD Changes Coming in December 2020
- CPD requirements will be measured in hours not by points.
- All registered optometrists (with the exception of those with student or non-practising registration) will be required to complete at least 20 hours of evidence-based CPD annually, that contributes to improving professional competence.
- Registered optometrists with an endorsement in scheduled medicines will be required to complete an additional 10 hours of CPD each year that relates to therapeutic practice.
- Optometrists will be required to complete a minimum of five of their 20 hours of CPD in an interactive setting with other practitioners.
- A maximum five of the 20 hours of CPD undertaken by an optometrist may be non-scientific/non-clinical education relevant to optometry practice. This includes CPD related to optical goods and equipment.
- Optometrists will be required to maintain a portfolio which includes learning goals and planned CPD activities. The portfolio must reflect how activities are expected to improve (or have improved) their professional practice.
SUPPORTING CLINICAL DEVELOPMENT
Optometry Australia’s 2040 plan acknowledged the role that data has to play in improving eye health outcomes. Indeed, this is something that Specsavers has invested in. By integrating systems, the organisation is now able to extract, aggregate and analyse data with the ultimate aim being to ensure consistently high standards of patient care and to measure the impact of initiatives implemented.
According to Specsavers, its growing dataset has, “for the first time in the industry” validated a “self-sustained strategy that is having a measurable, positive impact on detection of glaucoma at approaching population prevalence rates, with no additional cost or resource burden to the broader health care system”.
Gathering data is more difficult when you’re working with thousands of independent optometrists and multiple corporate entities, however Skye Cappuccio, General Manager of Policy at Optometry Australia said this is now a priority.
we are especially interested in developing evidence based supports to build well-being and resilience among new graduates and early career optometrists
“We believe there is great opportunity to enhance the provision of eye care through a greater national understanding of the care provided by optometrists. This is key to quantifying what is happening now, identifying opportunities to improve systems of care, and measuring improvements that may be made. It’s also important for securing ongoing support for the profession as the key providers of primary eye and vision care. This was strongly highlighted through our Optometry 2040 project.
“In response, we have recently initiated work to test approaches to extracting and analysing de-identified data from individual practices. This work is in its early stages, and we will keep the sector up to date on progress,” said Ms Cappuccio.
SUPPORTING TOMORROW’S LEADERS
Mr Baker said another priority for the organisation has been to work with student optometrists and early career optometrists. While this is partly to offer support, it also gives the organisation an opportunity to learn about career ambitions that are likely to drive the future.
“Our engagement with students and early career optometrists typically leaves us feeling very positive about the future of the profession,” he commented. “The passion and commitment they bring is motivational and their input to future planning, invaluable.
now that the benefits of a merged OVic/SA state association are being seen, can we expect to see more state mergers going forward?
“Our focus is on both ensuring we have a good understanding of key issues for those in the early phases of their career and on supporting the development of future leaders. We take this input seriously and we aim to be responsive. We have consistently heard from early career optometry groups that they are passionate about working to evolve the scope of practice of the profession, to best meet community need, and this is a key focus for Optometry Australia.”
Mr Baker said in working with young optometrists, it has become apparent that there is a need to develop tools for promoting mental health and wellbeing as early career optometrists navigate some of the challenging transitions early in their career.
“We now have resources focused on this issue in development for release in early 2020,” Mr Baker said.
Mental health and well-being is a hot topic of conversation across sectors and it is something that the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) School of Optometry and Vision Science is prioritising as well. In late 2019, QUT commenced a study to find out more about the specific needs of the optometry workforce.
According to QUT Head of School, Professor Sharon Bentley, while mental health studies have been conducted across many professions (most notably medicine and nursing), there has been no such study of optometrists.
“One in five people in the general population experience a mental health condition each year. In some health professions, the prevalence is substantially greater. A Beyond Blue national survey found 27% of doctors experienced anxiety and depression in the previous 12 months, and the rates were almost double among medical students,” said Prof Bentley.
“Optometrists are also vulnerable in our fast paced, changing world, with escalating workloads and pressures to perform at a high level. We hope to understand the extent of the problem in the profession and identify particular groups who need support. While it is important to support all optometrists, we are especially interested in developing evidence-based supports to build well-being and resilience among new graduates and early career optometrists as they navigate the multiple challenges that work and life present,” she added.
Optometry Australia is focused on progressing the 2040 findings and is seeking member feedback
The QUT study was open to all Australian registered optometrists and required them to complete an online survey that included three widely used mental health questionnaires (Kessler 10, Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 21 and Malasch Burnout Inventory), as well as demographic questions (e.g. age, gender, state, urban vs regional). The survey closed on 16 December 2019 and preliminary findings are expected this month. A report will be published in mivision.
2020: The Year of Good Vision for Life
2020: The year of good vision for life aims to deliver a consistent, united and powerful message to all Australians about eye health management and the need to see an optometrist regularly throughout life.
The organisation has appointed a public relations agency to generate attention and awareness of vision and eye health messages within the Australian media, social media, and amongst key consumer influencers. This activity will be supported with advertising and a rally call has gone out to members and the sector to join in and support activities to amplify consistent eye health messages to the widest community.
All campaign activity will drive consumers to make an appointment for an eye examination with an optometrist.
2020 Vision Index Report
Key to the campaign will be the ‘2020 Vision Index Report’, which has been derived by surveying Australians about their approach to eye health and their attitudes and habits with regard to their eyes. The research covers many topics such as glasses, contact lenses, eye conditions, disease, nutrition, workplace, driving, sport and digital behaviour, and will be used to generate media engagement throughout this year.
These data points will be shared regularly with the eye health sector as consumer-friendly infographics that can be on-shared with stakeholders’ target audiences.
A 2020: The year of good vision for life ‘badge’ and a complimentary suite of visual assets, campaign key messages and other campaign collateral, are available on optometry.org.au. The suite offers maximum application flexibility to fit in with organisations’ existing marketing campaigns.
PLANNING FOR THE ORGANISATION OF OPTOMETRY AUSTRALIA
Optometry Australia is currently a federated, not for profit organisation – that is, it has a national organisation based in Melbourne which collaborates with five divisional bodies: Optometry Victoria/South Australia, Optometry New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory, Optometry Queensland/ Northern Territory, Optometry Western Australia and Optometry Tasmania. The membership body represents over 80% of registered optometrists practising in Australia and all profits are invested back into member services.
In July last year, the state bodies of Victoria and South Australia merged following a lengthy campaign aimed at communicating the benefits of such a strategy to members and gauging their support.
Mr Baker said the key reason that Optometry Victoria (OVic) and Optometry South Australia (OSA) amalgamated was that both boards determined they would better serve members as one entity.
“The members overwhelmingly supported the move and we have seen an increase in membership in real terms. Registered optometrists, in Victoria and South Australia, increased from June 2018 to June 2019 by approximately 5%. Membership of Optometry Victoria/South Australia (OVic/SA) increased by approximately 7% over the same period, and now represents almost 90% of all registered optometrists in those states,” said Mr Baker.
Pete Haydon, CEO of OVic/SA, said the merger has enabled the organisation to deliver a higher overall amount of services at less cost to the membership. Consequently, subscription fees have reduced across all categories of membership in both states. Additionally, the newly merged organisation has streamlined its CPD program by replacing the annual Southern Regional Congress with O=MEGA19, a biennial event held in collaboration with the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ODMA). South Australia’s popular Blue Sky Congress is also now biennial, with single one day metro conferences, along with a comprehensive rural and regional CPD program, supplementing these major events.
Mr Haydon said in addition to these member benefits, the merged state organisation is now better placed to provide members with the “day to day responsiveness of a full service secretariat; tailored and meaningful communications; and expanded local advocacy policy development work”.
Now that the benefits of a merged OVic/SA state association are being seen, can we expect to see more state mergers going forward?
Mr Baker says that’s up to the members.
“The membership will ultimately determine how we best serve them and that will drive the structure of the organisation that will ensure we can achieve their wishes,” he said.
Lyn Brodie stressed the need for both members and the organisation itself to remain open to change.
“Intuitively we continually monitor change and consider the risks and opportunities in the rapidly changing environment, and annually consider change when reviewing strategy,” said Ms Brodie.
“Optometry 2040 has taught us that the future will be here before we know it and that future will deliver an optometry sector that will be very different to what it is today. An organisation that has survived for over 100 years is impressive, but one that is weighed down by the past will not thrive in the future – there are far too many examples of organisations who failed to cede to, or take advantage of, change that are now relegated to history.
“Optometry Australia understands that having a more structured process of continually monitoring internal and external change is critical. We recognise we need to be nimble and responsive, as well as courageous. Organisationally, we need to constantly consider operating models to ensure we can be for members not just now, but in 20, 40, 50 years and more. That may entail minor or major structural reforms that always put members’ needs front and centre,” Ms Brodie said.
In the meantime, Ms Brodie said Optometry Australia is focused on progressing the 2040 findings and is seeking member feedback.
“We have been implementing a number of initiatives as a result of the Optometry 2040 findings. We will now work actively with members to support them in adapting to change on a continuous basis, through a series of workshops around the country. We are also keen to understand, from members, what they need from us in the short and long term.”