Practice ownership has given Dr Jack Guan space to improve his patients’ quality of life while pursuing his interests.
Over the years I’ve run several businesses in aviation and hospitality, however until 2018, the idea of owning my own optometry practice never appealed.
After graduation, I signed a contract with an independent practice in the ACT with: Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to be closer to my wife. I was heavily involved in decision making on everything from the lenses and laboratories we used through to the diagnostic equipment we needed.
Practice ownership has allowed me to explore and focus on areas of optometry in which I can add real value to my patients’ everyday lives
Working in this way enabled me to establish vital business relationships and really add value to patients’ lives. Two practice decisions I made during those early years stand out for me – the first was to remove patient bulk-billing and the second was to introduce intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) for the treatment and management of dry eye. Ours was the first practice in the ACT to take these steps and, while I remember the owners being quite nervous at the time, those decisions paid off. By charging a gap we were able to spend more time with each patient, which enabled us to offer a higher level of service. By offering IPL we were able to offer an alternative to using eye drops hourly, which improved quality of life.
Despite having these opportunities to make a real difference to people’s lives early in my career, it wasn’t long before I wanted more.
I began exploring opportunities, such as rural outreach programmes and helping out in communities challenged by limited access to primary eye care.
Realising that my full-time position as a primary optometrist in an independent practice didn’t allow enough time to contribute to the community in the way I wanted, in 2018 I decided to venture out on my own.
The first decision I made was to create a culturally safe environment for my patients. To do this, I limited the number of patient consultations per day, which enables me to work at a much better pace and to connect with and understand each person at a deeper level. It makes my patients feel comfortable talking to me, which gives me a better opportunity to identify any issues that may be affecting their vision or early signs of eye disease. Like every optometrist, I am a big advocate for preventative eye care – early detection of eye disease enables treatment to commence more quickly, which in most cases means our patients’ vision can be preserved.
Improving the lives and health of Australia’s Indigenous community is a huge challenge and something I feel passionate about. Sadly, Australia is the one remaining developed nation with endemic levels of trachoma, an ocular disease that is particularly prevalent within our Indigenous population.
When I first started my own practice, I visited my local Indigenous health service provider and found that, although they offered a very comprehensive list of primary health services, they did not offer eye care. Since 2018, I have been actively promoting eye care within Indigenous communities in and around Canberra. This involves encouraging general practitioners within health clinics to offer eye care to patients with diabetes, and connecting with local hospitals so tertiary care can be provided to patients with conditions such as cataract and diabetic retinopathy. The uptake was initially slow, but triage nurses are now using our portable retinal camera to take fundus photography during screening, which is enormously satisfying.
Practice ownership has allowed me to explore and focus on areas of optometry in which I can add real value to my patients’ everyday lives. No two days are the same. Most importantly, I get to focus my expertise in communities that need it the most. Optometry for me has truly become an enriching career. I am excited to see what else our profession has to offer.
Dr Jack Guan graduated with a Doctor of Optometry from the University of Melbourne in 2014. He is the practice owner of Capital Eye in Barton, ACT. Dr Guan is the lead optometrist and the Executive Director of Eye Care Services at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Services in Narrabundah and a member of the Aboriginal Eye Health Advisory Group for ACT/NSW in association with the Rural Doctors Network.