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Thursday / June 20.
HomemioptometryFacing Challenges in Optometry

Facing Challenges in Optometry

In an era of change, the opportunities for success are many.


Andrew McKinnon

A gentleman by the name of Bill Austin is quoted as once saying “there are no problems, only opportunities”.

This is a wonderful slant to put on the changes which are being wrought on the profession through the government’s revisions to the Medicare schedule.

There are lots of opportunities inherent in these new arrangements – as long as you give them a chance to emerge.

No doubt, some of the changes are confronting – for many of us (in fact the vast majority) we have never known a time when Medicare wasn’t at least a passable baseline from which we could operate our practices. Sure, the rebates had drifted downwards over time, but they were at a level which most practitioners could cope with, albeit begrudgingly.

Jan 1, 2015 seems to have changed that mindset. Many practitioners now realise that the combination of a 5 per cent cut in rebates PLUS a four-year indexation freeze means that relying on bulk-billing for your professional-services income is just no longer viable. Many members are, we understand, taking a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude at present.

But here’s the opportunity.

Take the chance to thoroughly review your practice – your costs of business, your preferred patient profile, practice image, the works. With this information behind you, can your practice sustain a shift to private billing – or perhaps more importantly, can it sustain a decision to continue to accept an ever-diminishing Medicare rebate?

Look at your successful colleagues – what are they doing? There are many successful optometry practices all over the country covering all sorts of demographics, so don’t assume that if you have a ‘challenging’ patient demographic then this automatically rules out a shift to private billing.

Get with the times – if you aren’t already on an electronic billing system like EasyClaim then get on it. This sort of system allows you to legally charge a gap! Yes, that’s right – you can legally charge a gap through something like EasyClaim.
If you don’t know how, call the Association and we’ll explain.

And employees – don’t think this is just a job for the practice principal. Your employment depends on a vibrant, profitable practice, so offer to get involved and contribute your thoughts and energies as well.

There are lots of opportunities inherent in these new arrangements – as long as you give them a chance to emerge.


Pete Haydon

Another year is well underway, and with it a raft of new changes to the way optometrists conduct their business, including the removal of the fee cap and changes to Medicare rebates and item numbers for our members. Naturally with any change comes challenge as well as opportunity, and I’m looking forward to participating in the continuing broad conversation aroundfuture changes to Medicare.

I’d also commend Optometry Australia on its excellent work in communicating some of the changes to members. Feedback we’ve received on its clear, concise explanations has been very complimentary.

Over the coming months Optometry Victoria will continue to focus on delivering its core business of providing outstanding service to its membership. Whether members have contractual or workplace issues they wish to discuss; issues with Medicare or fees; or
concerns about practice standards or driving vision – amongst a host of others – we’ll be here to help.

Another exciting development in the first half of 2015 is the graduation of the first cohort of students from the Deakin University optometry degree. We’ve been delighted to meet with academic staff and students alike over recent months. We’re looking forward to welcoming students as Optometry Victoria immediate graduate members, and helping them to transition into the workforce.


Cathryn Baker

With less than six weeks until the start of the much anticipated Australian Vision Convention 2015, it’s time to register and avoid disappointment!

AVC’s clinical program is its best yet. Topic highlights of this much anticipated program include what not to miss in the paediatric population with Dr. Nelofar Deen, complex glaucoma with A/Prof Graham Lee, ocular oncology with Dr. Sunil Warrier and low pressures and closed angles in glaucoma with Dr. Hamish McKee. This well rounded program includes topics to suit all practice types, presented by high calibre speakers, so be sure not to miss out!

Back by popular demand all delegates are invited to experience a night of thrills and entertainment at the Gold Coast’s premier theme park Dreamworld. It will be a night of fun with rides and entertainment to suit all ages, alongside a delicious buffet dinner, drinks and dancing.

The well-known AVC exhibition hall has received an overhaul and will incorporate daylight into the mix in 2015, allowing the Gold Coast in. An information technology and photographic hub will also be included.

AVC, from 10–12 April, will be the event of the year! Register now at www.etouches.com/avc2015


Libby Boschen
As I sat in the first Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia (South Australia) CPD offering of 2015 recently (an excellent event by the way), I pondered the optometry profession and the changes I have witnessed since I joined the Association 10 years ago. Two things came to mind. Firstly, (in South Australia at least) there is a ‘changing of the guard’ across the profession as our more seasoned colleagues hand over the leadership baton to the next generation coming through. Secondly, with this injection of new blood and new ideas, historic grievances are becoming just that (revered and important war stories) and our profession is moving into a new era that heralds greater inter-professional collaboration and mutual respect within the eye care sector. Both of which are a win-win for all sectors of the eye health care and vision industry and the patients, communities and governments we serve.

The board table at Optometry South Australia is now dominated by the next generation of decision makers. They are prepared to challenge the status quo whilst demonstrating deep respect for their predecessors and the battles they fought to protect optometry. They recognise that the landscape has changed and that collaboration with our medical, optical dispensing and support industry colleagues is now an essential strategy to ensure a thriving profession going forwards. There may be fewer lines and reading prescriptions around the table, but the commitment and passion for the optometry profession is unchanged. Our profession is in safe hands and I applaud my more experienced members for stepping back and giving our emerging leaders room to ditch their training wheels. I also encourage all members to put your hand up and get involved in the future of your profession. Quit crying into your beer about the state of the nation and join us in doing something about it!

I quote Aristotle from around 350BC “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Let’s be proactive in joining together in 2015 to kick goals for eye health and vision in Australia.


Geoff Squibb

Several years ago the Tasmanian division provided playing shirts and caps for the Tasmanian team participating in the annual Interstate Parliamentary Bowling Carnival. The uniforms carried the message about the importance of regular eye examinations by an optometrist. This year Optometry Tasmania upgraded the message to include the new logo and promote the aspiration statement to members of State Parliaments at the annual carnival, held in Hobart in January.

Scholarships and Seminar
The Tasmanian Optometry Foundation, in lieu of awarding individual scholarships in 2014, has agreed to sponsor a CPD workshop for Tasmanian optometrists in June this year. To assist the Foundation in arranging topics of relevance, Tasmanian members are being asked to complete a questionnaire. The workshop is planned for a weekend in June and will be held in Launceston. Meanwhile the Chairman of the Tasmanian Optometry Foundation, Chris Dobson, has announced the 2015 Tasmanian Optometry Foundation Scholarships. The scholarships will provide financial assistance of up to AU$5,000 to enable registered optometrists working in Tasmania, Tasmanian students undertaking optometric studies, or Tasmanians undertaking research in optometry to further their careers and to promote excellence and the advancement of optometry in Tasmania.

Mr. Dobson said the Foundation was established from the accumulated funds from the former Optometrists Registration Board of Tasmania when that Board was replaced by the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme in July 2010.

Applications are now open and close on 30 June. The successful applicant(s) will be announced at TLC in August.

Application forms and further details are available at www.optometrists.asn.au/tasmania or the Foundation’s Executive Officer Geoff Squibb Ph. (03) 6224 3360.


Genevieve Quilty

Only three months into 2015 and it is proving to be a really busy year for Optometry Australia. With our mission to lead, engage and promote optometry, optometrists and community eye health, there are many opportunities during this first half of 2015 to represent our members, around 90 per cent of registered optometrists in Australia.

The summer period is always busy for optometrists and of course this January and February was even more so with changes to the Medicare schedule for our profession commencing 1 January. Optometry Australia’s supporting resources have been well accessed by members through our home page (www.optometry.com.au). We encourage member optometrists to be in touch if further assistance is required [email protected].

Just prior to the summer break, Optometry Australia put in its annual budget submission. This advocacy document is an important piece of work setting out policy priorities to meet the eye health needs of the Australian community. Key to this submission is seeking support for our profession to continue to provide access to disadvantaged patients in the face of the significant cuts to Medicare Schedule funding. Following intensive lobbying, the Veterans’ Affairs Minister secured an exemption to the Optometry Medicare schedule cuts for veterans, announced a few days before Christmas Day. We are continuing work to seek exemptions for other classes of disadvantaged patients (children, low income patients and pensioners). To foster improved access to optometric care for all Australians, we are also calling for additional investment to ensure the sustainability of service provision in rural and remote areas; to improve eye care access for older, immobile Australians, and for the Government to do more to address the ‘gap’ in eye health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by facilitating better access to prescription glasses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A new Health Minister was appointed in late December so this key policy piece will be a great ‘door opener’ as we commence meetings in Canberra.

In mid-March, Optometry Australia will be representing our members at an important Parliamentary Friends event at Parliament House in Canberra, the first official function for new health minister, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, with the eye care sector.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing many of you at up-coming Optometry Australia conferences, the next being the Australian Vision Convention (AVC) at the Gold Coast from 10–12 April. Pop over to our booth and share your thoughts.