The initiatives achieved by Optometry Australia (OA), on behalf of its members, in the financial year period 2018-2021 have been highlighted in its Strategic Plan Report Card. The report provides insight into the wide and varied programs delivered or commenced to future proof the changing nature of optometry.
With the vision to drive excellence in eye and vision care, OA’s core goal is to ensure that optometrists are well placed to meet changing community eye health and vision care needs, particularly given the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on health care.
During the three-year-period, OA continued intensive advocacy to government to support evolving scope of practice, ensuring that members can access contemporary education aligned to current clinical and patient management. This support was further bolstered with the introduction of a range of new member initiatives including an expanded member advisory service, new clinical guidelines and resources, publications, events and resilience, wellness and profiling programs.
OA now represents almost 85% of all registered optometrists and provides support to the majority of Australia’s 630 optometry students
The report is divided into OA’s four strategic pillars of focus: lead, engage, promote and endure. Within this, OA has set its key goals and the achievements made since 2018.
In line with the organisations aim to provide a strong voice to lead the eye and vision health sector, the set achievement of positioning optometrists to meet the growing eye health needs of the Australian community was realised through various avenues.
Pivoting to take into consideration the challenges instated by the pandemic, many of these targets involved supporting optometry through unforeseen disruption. Throughout 2019 and 2020, members attended a series of workshops on leveraging disruption and, following this, in 2020, OA supported more optometrists to provide telehealth services for patient care during COVID-19 lockdowns by offering six months’ free access to the Occulo digital patient management platform.
The report also outlines how OA engaged with members and worked with both independent and corporate optometry to deliver collaborative strategies and projects. Of particular note is the increase in membership and membership benefits. OA now represents almost 85% of all registered optometrists and provides support to the majority of Australia’s 630 optometry students.
Again, such support proved especially poignant given the pandemic. In fact, OA’s COVID-19 hub has become one of the most visited sections of the website as it provides updated information on lockdowns, infection control, PPE, financial support and health and wellbeing advice.
Among the engagement achievements is the promise to deliver quality CPD. In 2019, OA launched Optometry Australia Institute of Excellence to provide quality education for members to access online at any time. As well as this, with CPD moving to an annual hours-based system, OA has focused attention on developing resources to transition to this new way of learning, including the launch of an online Learning Plan.
OA has continued to promote optometry and the role of optometrists through forging closer relationships with health disciplines and aligned eye health organisations and launching the Good vision for life consumer eye heath campaign. It is estimated that, through a range of tactics, OA has potentially motivated 9.7 million optometry appoints, and 7.57 million Australians over the age of 18 to be more aware of their eye health.
In terms of direct engagement, OA reported a 9% growth in followers on its consumer-facing Facebook page and now delivers regular eye health information and news to over 3,000 consumers subscribed to OA’s electronic newsletter.
With the goal to ensure that member fees directly benefit members through the range of services delivered and the advancement of the optometry sector, the report outlines OA’s prudent financial management and the significant investment made into expanding member services.
In Financial Year 2020/2021, as a response to the lockdowns, OA were able to access reserves to work with the state divisions to support membership fees being discounted by 50%. As well as this, securing a Federal Government grant to support the rollout of the Make this your year of good vision for life campaign, enabled OA to divert funds back into supporting direct member services.
OA Maintains Values
“I would like to congratulate the team at Optometry Australia on these achievements, and to acknowledge the support of our state divisions, said Darrell Baker, OA President. “We have a strong culture within our organisation centred on ensuring that members are front and centre of all decisions made and that our organisation’s FIRST values – Forward thinking, Integrity & respect, Responsive & accountable, Strategic vision and Team work – underpin performance.
“I would also like to thank my fellow board members whose vision for optometry continues to help shape our decisions and which are always aimed at strengthening optometry and ensure a sustainable future for optometrists.”
A copy of the Report Card can be downloaded here.