The impact of collaborative care – optometry and GPs

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For Specsavers optometrist Laura Hou, treating a range of patients and a variety of cases is par for the course.

Laura, who has been practicing as an optometrist since 2018, works at Specsavers in Salamander Bay, in coastal New South Wales. The Sydneysider made the move to the regional location, following the completion of her grad year with Specsavers.

“I became an optometrist because I thought it was an interesting field. I’d been exposed to industry from a young age, and it felt very natural, to explore a career that enabled me to help people and work with the community.”

Laura, who completed her university degree and then the Specsavers graduate program at Salamander Bay before becoming a full-time optometrist in the store, said her experience as a graduate working in a regional town was “fantastic” and made her decision to move their permanently an easy one.

“I love being part of the community here, it’s a great work-life balance – I live only minutes away from the store – and I really feel like I have a role to play here, supporting the team and the community by delivering quality eye care.”

Laura says in a ‘standard day’ at work she sees a range of cases, from patients with glaucoma or macular degeneration or cataracts as well as refractive cases. She says the region has a slightly older population, which accounts for the variety of cases she sees and is perfectly aligned with her interests in disease management systemic and collaborative healthcare.

And it was this commitment to collaborative care that saw Laura tap into local healthcare resources to assist a patient earlier this year.

Laura saw the patient, Brian Priestly, as part of his routine eye test. It was during general conversation in the test room that Brian mentioned that when he was reading, his eyes would ‘miss’ part of the page.

Laura immediately requested a same day visual field test and once she had the result, realised that he would need a referral to an ophthalmologist or other tertiary care provider and potentially an MRI test.

“I needed to figure out the best way to get the patient seen urgently. Because of where we are located, there are no ophthalmologists nearby, the closest would be in Newcastle and I knew it could take him a while to get an appointment.”

Instead, Laura jumped on a call to the local GP, explained the results of the visual fields test and got Mr Priestly in for an urgent consultation later that day.

“It’s a great example of how primary healthcare providers can work really collaboratively, which is very common in a regional town,” she said.

Once he had made a full recovery, Mr Priestly returned to Specsavers to thank Laura for assisting with getting to a specialist so quickly – bringing with him a very large box of chocolates!

“It felt really rewarding and gratifying to have a customer come back in to say thank you – even though any optometrist would have done the same thing. I was very grateful that I was able to refer him on so quickly, that the healthcare system works in a way that he was prioritised, and that he’s been able to make a full recovery,” she says.

“It’s nice to know that the work you do really can make a difference, and it just goes to show how important talking to the customer is – and taking time to build relationships, not only with your customers but also with the other primary healthcare providers in your area.”

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