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HomemieventsAVC A Digital Focus

AVC A Digital Focus

Australian Vision Convention (AVC), from 22 – 23 April, showcased the progressive, collaborative nature of optometry in Australia today. Lectures, workshops and exhibitors provided delegates with critical information on all aspects of eye care – from state of the art patient communication, through to practice management, diagnostic equipment, clinical procedures and even research into gene therapies and photo switching.

With a multitude of optometry events to choose from this year it wouldn’t be surprising to see attendance numbers at conferences falling across the board. Yet Australian Vision Convention on the Gold Coast during April succeeded in attracting a strong attendance of 400 optometrists from Australia,
New Zealand and even Austria.

Patient Education

The conference started bright and early with a packed room for breakfast, hosted by Alcon. Patient education is integral to building healthy communities and Alcon was proud to launch a new communication device that informs presbyopic patients about the condition and their options to manage it. In conjunction with Australian start-up Medicine X, and in collaboration with Optometry Australia and the Contact and Corneal Lens Society of Australia, Alcon has produced an App that tells the story of Penny, a woman in her late 40s who suddenly realises her arms aren’t long enough to focus on the text messages she receives from her kids or the menu at her favourite restaurant. Through an interactive animated story – illustrated by none other than the creatives at Marvel Comics – she describes what’s happening to her eyes and her options for vision correction. Medicine X has produced a number of animated educational stories about different disease states and has plans to produce one on wet macular degeneration and another on myopia in the near future.

Practice Management

Also in the digital sphere was a presentation by Eddie Quinones from MyHealth1st, a leading innovative online optometry booking system which integrates with Sunix and Optomate. MyHealth1st has taken over five million online booking appointments and claims less than a 1 per cent no show. Optometrist Michael Jones from RJK Optometry joined Mr. Quinones on the stage to talk about his experience with the software. One of the first optometrists to implement MyHealth1st, he said that within six months 60 – 70 per cent of his new patients had found their way to his practice online and were booking appointments via MyHealth1st. He said 90 per cent of bookings made online were made after hours and no shows had significantly reduced. Mr. Jones highlighted the ability to take control of the appointment book by setting filters for specialisations and availability of particular optometrists. He said MyHealth1st also provided a cost effective and efficient recall system which enabled him to set up and send recall messages in just 20 minutes.

patients whose eyes have been damaged through trauma are often the most difficult eyes to fit, not clinically but emotionally

Young Optometrists

An early morning session presented by optometrists Rohan Hughes, Emily Henry and Rebecca Cox was dedicated to the learning needs of young optometrists. Speaking on myopia, Rohan Hughes updated delegates on current literature regarding myopia control therapies, translating them into pearls for use in clinical practice.

Emily Henry spoke about therapeutic treatments of various anterior eye conditions with an emphasis on acute corneal conditions and Rebecca Cox spoke about the wide ranging uses for anterior segment OCT including angle assessment, cornea and conjunctival lesion. Ms. Cox highlighted both the advantages and disadvantages of using anterior OCT as compared with other techniques for assessing the anterior segment.

Clinician Scientist Dr. Lauren Ayton from the Centre for Eye Research Australia and the Clinical Team Leader of the Bionic Vision Australia project, provided delegates with a fascinating update on progress to develop the bionic eye, as well as an insight into the future of vision restoration using stem cells, gene therapy and ground-breaking photoswitch technology. Dr. Ayton announced that funding had been granted for a much anticipated second trial of BVA’s bionic eye and the trial was due to commence later this year. Speaking of stem cell therapies, Dr. Ayton said optometrists should caution patients that “there are some not so savoury groups who will charge for unproven stem cell therapies and if a patient is asked to pay for one of these unregistered, unregulated stem cell therapies, it’s probably not a good idea at this time”. More information can be found at the Stem Cells Australia website.

Contact Lens Cases

Professing a love of fitting contact lenses, optometrist Jillian Campbell spoke to delegates about unique and challenging contact lens cases including scleral lenses for ptosis and prosthetic contact lenses. She said being able to help patients with scarred and disfigured eyes resulting from congenital abnormalities or traumatic injuries has probably been one of the most enjoyable aspects of practicing. However she said some of these patients have been the most challenging she had come across… “patients whose eyes have been damaged through trauma are often the most difficult eyes to fit, not clinically but emotionally. In their minds they still see their eyes as healthy and haven’t quite accepted the loss. And in these situations we often become a counsellor. Providing the patent has realistic expectations, prosthetic lenses are generally satisfactory in terms of wearing time, comfort and colour.”

AMD and Dry Eye

Dr. Isabelle Jalbert, Senior Lecturer in Ocular Therapeutics at UNSW presented her research which shows that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients’ understanding of their disease and its treatment could be strengthened. Dr. Jalbert’s research found that fear, denial and poor acceptance of the disease featured as key emotions reported by and about AMD patients. Her project also highlighted the need for clear, comprehensive care pathways to be available for AMD, and that these pathways must include early referral to low vision rehabilitation and other support services.

In a separate presentation, Dr. Jalbert provided an overview of her collaborative research on dry eye and her group’s efforts to look for links between nutrition, body composition and the environment. She highlighted the challenges associated with modern lifestyle and the modern diet (which tends to be low in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants). Factors or challenges include the obesity epidemic, changes to the environment due to climate change, increased pollution and increased use of video screens and smartphones. In her talk Dr. Jalbert reflected on how all of these factors may combine to challenge the ocular surface and perhaps lead to an increased prevalence of ocular discomfort and symptoms and signs of dry eye. She presented preliminary data from three separate pilot studies conducted by the group, which partially support these hypothesis.

Optometrists Approve

For optometrists like Kylie Freiberg, who practices in regional Queensland, AVC was the perfect opportunity to acquire CPD points and learn about a variety of topics. “I have been to AVC numerous times now and have always been impressed by the wide variety of topics covered. The choice of attending optional workshops is also appealing…

“While my main aim from a conference is to always leave with more knowledge and skills that I can incorporate into everyday practice, I am also interested to learn about recent developments in the research field. I feel AVC covered a broad range of topics well.”

Ms. Freiberg said a workshop hosted by Dr. Lindsay McGrath on foreign body removal proved particularly worthwhile. “There were two pieces of advice that I found particularly useful. Firstly, Lindsay suggested a very simple yet effective technique to bend the tip of the needle prior to foreign body removal. She recommended to place a 25mm needle tip into a 21mm needle tip and bend gradually. I had never heard this tip before and I will certainly be doing this in practice from now on.

“Secondly, she reminded us of how important it is to check for anterior chamber shallowing to ascertain if the foreign body had penetrated deeper. Comparison of the two eyes would allow an anterior chamber depth difference to be easily observed. Again, this is a simple check to incorporate into practice.”

Exhibitors Impressed

Exhibitors were equally impressed by AVC. Eddie Quinones from MyHealth1st said the event, “presented us with lots of opportunities to provide optometrists with a first-hand glance into the future of the digital patient journey.”

Tim McCann, CEO of Rodenstock said AVC is “one of the best events on the calendar”, that enables his team “to meet, do business, and present its products to customers. “AVC is a great opportunity to demonstrate our expertise. Our speaker Nicola Peaper presented a CPD breakfast on the visual task of driving. We were also able to showcase a great new product; Rodenstock Road as well as our classic high quality range of optical eyewear frames.”

AVC 2018

In 2018 AVC will move to larger premises, taking place at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 7–8 April.