Optometrists working together to achieve their goals… it can work!
During 2015 Optometry Australia focused activities on our three strategic themes; to lead, engage and promote optometrists, optometry and community eye health.
Our work is undertaken by staff members in collaboration and consultation with many members of the profession and our optometry leaders who volunteer to serve on our state organisation boards and the National Board of Optometry Australia. We are supported by a membership of almost 90 per cent of registered optometrists in Australia.
2015 brought significant change to the billing options for the profession. For the first time in 40 years, we have the ability to set our own fees; however, harsh cuts were imposed on optometry patients through cuts to the Medicare rebates, an extension to the long-term freeze of the indexation of Medicare rebates and a reduction in Medicare rebates for access to preventative eye health examinations for patients under 65 years, from two to three years.
In collaboration with many optometry practices in Australia, we collected 18,000 signatures as part of the advocacy campaign, Medicare for All. In late October, the petition was tabled in parliament and we met with more than 25 MPs and their staff in Parliament House, Canberra, to further this campaign and underline the importance of a sustained investment by government in optometry services.
We secured five new Medicare items in 2015, including our first procedural item, recognising our increasing scope of practice. We secured changes to PBS listing so that anti-glaucoma medications can be prescribed in alignment with OBA guidelines.
Optometry Australia also participated in industry and government standards reviews, including the multidisciplinary review of the ‘Assessing Fitness to Drive’ standards. We contributed to three of the four policy committees of Vision 2020, helping to promote the importance of optometrists in eye care in wider policy matters of our sector.
Essential member-only services ensure optometrists are well equipped and supported to deliver world-class optometry services. These include:
• new and updated clinical resources, such as Paediatric Eye Health and Vision Care Guidelines, as well as a large suite of position statements covering areas such as adult primary eye health and vision care. As well, two long-term working groups convened to facilitate policy development and regulatory improvements in Indigenous and low vision respectively;
- the development of two curated hubs of professional information – one for students and one for Early Career Optometrists;
- the delivery of seven state conferences, a wide variety of webinars, 10-minute tutorials and national programs including credentialed optometrist training and Medicare utilisation seminars, and land workshops.
- 190,000 article downloads for Clinical and Experimental Optometry – one of the world’s top three optometry journals; the publication of four special issues of Pharma (one each on glaucoma, AMD, diabetes and dry eye), all providing practical, highly-relevant content for clinical practice, edited by optometrist Mark Roth with contributions from our profession;
- a steady increase in engagement on our social media platforms, which provide forums for conversations with members and allows us to drive conversations behalf of the profession in the social space.
A three-year marketing strategy has been developed for roll-out, aimed at promoting community eye health and the role of the optometrist. Over 600 pieces of editorial coverage across print and broadcast channels have been achieved to support optometrists as well as a social media based children’s vision campaign and school-based resources pack.
We thank our members for contributing to our achievements throughout 2015. With our aim to be the influential voice that unites and advances the profession, we look forward to 2016.