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AVC Emphasises Need for Professional Partnerships

The optical conference season commenced in style with Australian Vision Conference (AVC) on the Gold Coast attracting a solid number of delegates eager to attend an education program with a strong clinical focus, coupled with an impressive trade exhibition and the obligatory big night out.

David Foresto, President of the Optometrists Association Australia (OAA) Queensland / Northern Territory division welcomed delegates to the conference and told them that this year, the big focus would be on the future of optometry and the divergence happening both within the workforce and in terms of scope of practice.

Mr. Foresto said the OAA has a strong track record on increasing the scope of practice – “not by aggressive hard nosed lobbying – but instead by a practical solutions based approach to issues within the eye care world”.

He said another focus in planning this year’s AVC was to create a clinical education program centred on “spectacles and optics”, in contrast with previous conferences that concentrated primarily on therapeutics.

There was a strong line-up of speakers at AVC including Professor Mo Jalie and Dr. Rachael Peterson from the United Kingdom, Dr. Jason Miller from the United States…

There was a strong line-up of speakers at AVC including Professor Mo Jalie and Dr. Rachael Peterson from the United Kingdom, Dr. Jason Miller from the United States and a number of highly regarded local eye health experts.

Future Planning Critical

AVC was officially opened by Queensland’s Assistant Health Minister, Dr. Chris Davis who spoke of the challenges the Queensland government faces as it rises to meet the needs of an ageing population.

He said planning for health services in the future is “critical” because of finances and demographics – stating that the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to grow by 54 per cent between 2011 and 2021.

Dr. Davis acknowledged the working relationship that exists between Queensland Health and the OAA Queensland / Northern Territory division which has led to the establishment of successful trial programs at Ipswich and Toowoomba hospital resulted in a significant reducion
in waiting lists.

He said in one of the trials, patients were given the choice to remain on a waiting list for a year or to receive immediate referral to be screened for diabetic retinopathy. Of 68 patients who received a mail out, 35 chose to take the referral to a private practioner, which resulted in a 51.5 per cent reduction in the waiting list.

He believes the trials confirm there is a role in public private partnerships in helping to reduce the waiting lists for diabetic screening. “The Minister and I are keen to see (the model) rolled out across the state in the future,” he said.

Additionally, Dr. Davis said, there is a need to explore options for the management of macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataract progression to free up the limited number of public health ophthalmologists, create greater access for patients, and improvements in quality and efficiency.

A Clinical Educational Program

A packed education program offered delegates information about current and forthcoming technologies and treatments for eye health.

At the Johnson and Johnson Vision Care session, Sheila Hickson-Curran, Director, Global Strategic Medical Affairs at J&JVC and co inventor of Acuvue Brand Accelerated Stabilisation Design toric contact lenses, challenged optometrists to think Beyond the Chair when fitting their astigmatic patients with contact lenses. She reminded delegates that the normal action of the blink conspires to destabilise toric contact lenses, but choosing a design with minimal thickness changes under the lids that works with the blink, can give patients clear, stable vision. Ms. Hickson-Curran encouraged the audience to consider how they determine how satisfied their patients really are with their lenses and question more deeply to uncover any visual problems that could be addressed.

Professor Mo Jalie, a visiting Professor from the University of Ulster in Coleraine and at the educational facility Essilor Academy Europe in Paris, delivered presentations that covered aspheric and atoric lenses, off-axis performance of spectacle lenses, and progressive lenses.

Dr. David Hilford, a practising Vitreo-Retinal Surgeon in Brisbane, spoke about current macular degeneration treatments – Lucentis and Eylea – and those on the horizon, including Jetrea, which has recently been approved for use to treat vitreomacular adhesion in the United States and Europe.

Final year optometry students were catered for with a dedicated Student Program hosted by Alcon designed to assist in the transition to practicing clinician.

At this session, optometrists Helen Gleave and Lauren Richard from the Alcon Professional Affairs team gave practical tips to improve communication with patients when fitting soft toric contact lenses. Ms. Gleave discussed how effective questioning and active listening can be in assisting clinicians to find and meet patient needs. Ms. Richard presented on the opportunity to impress patients with clinical skills when fitting astigmatic patients with today’s range of high technology toric lenses and how to optimise first fit success rates.

A Gold Coast Experience

Eye care professionals from every State and Territory of Australia as well as New Zealand, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Singapore and Malaysia were treated to a true Gold Coast experience when they went, en masse to Movie World as part of the AVC experience. And there’s no doubt that many delegates stayed on past the conference close to enjoy a late summer holiday on the spectacular beaches.

Photos by Todd Tai. To view all mivision’s photos of AVC 2013 go to https://mivision.com.au/avc-emphasises-needs-for-professional-partnerships/