Since early March, the optometry industry has been massively impacted by the coronavirus, particularly as our roles as primary care providers require a high level of face-to-face activity and a reliance on our physical premises for the majority of our work.

But times of great adversity can also lead to great innovation as we find ways to support eye care patients and eyewear customers, provide care and maintain a presence while working remotely and staying at home.

Along with others across the optical industry, Specsavers partners have risen to this challenge by implementing a number of changes to their ‘traditional’ processes and finding new ways to deliver services to our customers.

Open 24/7 online

As it became clear that stores would be required to close, we explored ways that partners would be able to provide glasses to customers using other channels. We were able to ramp up our e-commerce service in Australia, extending customers’ ability to order both glasses and contacts online by extending the script levels that were available to order.

Partners also implemented new processes to be able to dispense complex prescriptions remotely online, with the help of the expert dispensers in our product and clinical support teams.

And supporting partners’ efforts from Port Melbourne, our digital and social teams were also able to implement new processes to allow customers to request a copy of their prescription via email, enabling them to place online orders.

In NZ, our partner support and clinical team have also been instrumental in assisting customers online. With no e-commerce in place for glasses orders we were able to implement a contact form so customers could be contacted directly and a remote dispense implemented to get orders out during stage 4 lockdown.

Triaging and telephone guidance

In New Zealand, where a level-4 lockdown meant all stores were closed and all team members were required to remain at home, there were limited options to provide ongoing care – however many New Zealanders were experiencing urgent care requirements.

Our Clinical Support team was able to commence triaging and providing online eye care appointments to customers, many of whom reached out via social media or other digital channels in order to receive care.

Just some of these instances include:

  • A 44-year-old male with three-day history of pain and light sensitivity in RE after inserting CL. He presented with light sensitivity and foreign body sensation, with a red and weepy eye. Our CPD was able to provide an emergency telehealth appointment where she was able to provide a diagnosis of CL related keratitis. She was able to advise the patient to cease CL wear completely + RE 1gtt Ciprofloxacine 0.3% every 15 min for first 2 hours, then reduce to 2 hourly and chloramphenicol 1% ointment nocte RE. A follow up appointment 24 hours post consultation the patient reported feeling much better, no more photophobia and foreign body sensation reduced. The CPC advised the patient to continue to use RE 1gtt Ciprofloxacine 0.3% 4 hourly and chloramphenicol 1% ointment nocte RE and review again in four days. The patient was also given the optometrist’s contact number if the situation worsened before their next appointment.
  • A 47-year-old female SE. RX -6.75 each eye. 3-4 days history of cloudy vision in RE, like a veil in vision and having to look around to try read. The patient had a history of RE retinal tear lasered and LE retinal detachment repair with scleral buckle still in place from her 20s. Amsler grid showed moving lines in the RE. The CPC was able to make an immediate referral to public ophthalmology with suspected retinal detachment encroaching macula and secure the patient an appointment for the same day.

In Australia, while we remained open for care, our partners and optometrists have been able to triage patients and provide support and care over the phone, including remote dispenses for complex prescriptions as well as providing advice for repairs and adjustments and providing urgent care for healthcare and other essential workers.

In order to ensure stores remained safe for both partners delivering urgent care, as well as our customers, we implemented a range of new in-store processes including the installation of hygiene barriers at all customer touch points, as well as providing stores with personal protective equipment (PPE) and thermometers as added precautions.

Using digital technologies to support customers

With the bulk of orders placed during this time done remotely,  we needed to come up with a new way of providing remote support for requests that didn’t come under the banner of urgent care.

In addition to the wealth of existing resources on our website, we created a new ‘how to’ video series – a collaboration between several teams within our support office, responding to the common queries we were from customers during isolation.

These included topics such as how to buy online, how to fit glasses, how to tighten loose frames, how to replace nosepads, and how to adjust bent frames.

We also added a range of new content to our website – our primary source of communication – on how customers could access support, from how to request their prescription to how to measure their pupillary distance.

Providing support and professional development to optometrists

We have also been innovating the way we provide support and professional development to our optometrists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using our MyCPD portal and a purpose-built COVID-19 communications hub, we have been able to provide regular updates and guidelines to ensure our team has the latest government information on hygiene and care practices during the pandemic.

We’ve also collaborated with ophthalmologist Dr Colin Chan to deliver a series of interactive CPD-accredited webinars to ensure our optometrists can access relevant professional development from home.

We’ve also uploaded more than 20 courses to our new MyCPD portal to help our optometrist continue to manage and track their CPD.