The seventh Specsavers Clinical Conference (SCC7) revealed some eye-opening statistics on how the combination of Specsavers Australia & New Zealand’s technology strategies, interprofessional relationships and professional development investments have already started to transform eye health.

From Saturday 8 to Sunday 9 September, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre hosted more than 750 SCC7 delegates, including over 200 non-Specsavers optometrists and optometry students.

One of the most highly attended presentations was an opening address by Specsavers Aus / NZ Optometry Director Peter Larsen, which kicked off the Sunday program. Peter recounted how he had described the Specsavers ‘Transforming eye health’ mission to his 16-year-old daughter, using her youth soccer team as an analogy.

He said, “Imagine you’re going to a soccer game … but the coach doesn’t give any feedback in terms of what you need to do. You kick goals but you don’t keep score [and] there’s no ladder. … You go home not knowing how you’ve gone in the season. What we’re doing [at Specsavers] is building an environment in which to play the game better.”

Peter spoke about how integration with the Oculo electronic referral platform, the introduction of benchmark reporting for all optometrists, and the rollout of OCT across the store network, among other initiatives, were all contributing towards building this environment within optometry. As part of this, Specsavers is equipping its practices with the latest equipment, training team members on how to use the technology efficiently and effectively, empowering optometrists with feedback on how their clinical practice is influencing patient outcomes, and providing professional development opportunities to allow them to enhance their practice based on that feedback.

Peter presented a series of charts based on early Specsavers data, which showed how the network’s eye health strategies had already led to higher rates of detection and an increase in referrals for medical retinal disease, macular oedema and glaucoma, including normal-tension glaucoma. It was noted that this data, and more, would appear in the upcoming State of the Nation eye health report that will soon be published by Specsavers.

The ‘Transforming eye health’ message underpinned the entire SCC7 speaker program, with leading ophthalmologists sharing their knowledge on eye disease diagnosis and patient management across both Saturday and Sunday in 10 clinical sessions. Topics discussed included a review of the referral pathways for glaucoma, the management and detection of diabetic eye disease, ocular tumours, red eye, and optic nerve diseases. Complementing the clinical lectures were a series of four ‘Fringe Talks’ conducted by Diabetes Australia, Glaucoma Australia, Vision Australia and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

These Fringe Talks took place in the SCC7 exhibition, which, for the first time, was extended across both days. Twenty-seven exhibitors were on show, including Specsavers Support Office teams, advocacy groups, equipment suppliers, and industry associations. Among the exhibitors were RANZCO, Glaucoma Australia, Diabetes Australia, Macular Disease Foundation Australia, Vision Australia, Young Optometrists, Guide Dogs Australia, and the Australian College of Optometrists.

A Welcome Dinner was held at the National Gallery of Victoria on the Saturday evening in place of the usual cocktail event, where delegates enjoyed a three-course meal beneath an exquisite stained glass ceiling display. During the dinner, attendees heard about the important outreach work of Lions Outback Vision, this year’s SCC fundraising partner. Professor David Mackey accepted a cheque on behalf of the charitable organisation for over $31,700, which comprised donations made by Specsavers stores and SCC7 delegates in the lead-up to the event.

The dinner also saw the presentation of the inaugural Doug Perkins Medals. The medals for New Zealand and Australia were awarded to Specsavers Botany and Specsavers Victor Harbour, respectively, for demonstrating clinical excellence. The winners and finalists were selected based on the Specsavers Professional Benchmarks Initiative, which defines and measures patient outcomes, allied to leadership skills, training and engagement with medicine. Clinical performance measured from a patient perspective clearly identified the leading teams from amongst hundreds of stores. The finalists revealed on the night represented the top 2% of stores.

SCC7 was sponsored by Device Technologies, Johnson and Johnson Vision and Novartis, along with Alcon, BOC Instruments, CooperVision, Good Optical Services, Hilco Vision, Menicon and Zeiss.

SCC will again be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in 2019 from 7 to 8 September.

For details on the next SCC conference, subscribe to the Spectrum newsletter.