Specsavers Australia & New Zealand has piloted a new program that facilitates ongoing education sessions between Specsavers optometrists and local RANZCO ophthalmologists, with the aim of further improving patient outcomes through increased collaboration and tailored, feedback-based professional development.

As part of the Ophthalmologist Local Education and Engagement Program (OLEEP), Specsavers connects participating optometrists with a local RANZCO ophthalmologist, who subsequently organises and leads group mentoring sessions. Sessions cover education and discussion on clinical assessment, consistent approaches to referral criteria and content, and benchmarks for eye disease referral rates.

The pilot OLEEP event took place in mid-June at the Eyes First ophthalmology clinic in Springvale, Melbourne, with approximately 30 optometrists from local Specsavers stores in attendance. The evening involved an introduction to OLEEP and the program’s objectives, as well as a CPD component.

Eyes First ophthalmologist Dr Tu Tran led a group case discussion on glaucoma and optic nerve head assessment, which was followed by an interactive presentation by Dr Elaine Chong on diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. The Professional Benchmark Referral Summaries that Specsavers optometrists receive on a weekly basis enabled the ophthalmologists to deliver relevant and applicable feedback on detection, referral and management.

The referral summaries provide Specsavers optometrists with an individual overview of the conditions they are detecting and managing, the frequency with which they refer patients, and how this compares to others in both their store and local region. This allows them to understand and reflect on how they are transforming eye health in their communities. As part of OLEEP, participating optometrists will track how their referral patterns change over time to assess the program’s impact.

“Developing collaborative training that leads to improvements in patient outcomes is an important step in transforming eye health across Australia and New Zealand,” explained Specsavers Optometry Development Consultant Jeena Tan. “The OLEEP program aims to provide Specsavers optometrists with education and mentorship from RANZCO ophthalmologists in order to improve the consistency and quality of patient referrals. With optometrists engaging in ongoing education and professional development, and reflecting on their own practice, we expect to see referral patterns becoming more consistent across optometry teams. This will, in turn, have a positive impact on patient outcomes.”

In the next OLEEP session, participants will share how they have utilised the feedback from the initial pilot event to enhance their clinical practice, and the changes they have observed in patient outcomes as a result.

This is the first step in a larger plan to roll out OLEEP in other Australian and New Zealand regions, with the aim of continually enhancing professional development initiatives for Specsavers optometrists.

Comments from attendees

“It was great to put faces to names with the ophthalmologists that we routinely refer to. We also had fantastic opportunities to get feedback with regards to referral pathways and guidelines directly from the people we were referring to. It just so happened that I had instant confirmation of a referral that I’d made the week before, as Dr Chong had seen the patient and presented it as a case study on the night.” – Run Yan, Specsavers Mornington, VIC

“Dr Tran went through a systematic optic nerve head evaluation in an informed manner with an objective approach, improving our confidence and consolidating our knowledge. I loved the opportunity that we were given to ask questions along the way, and the instant feedback. Feedback plays an integral part in the development and establishment of sound clinical skills.” – Michael Phan, Specsavers Keysborough, VIC