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Eyecare Plus Conference 2022

The annual Eyecare Plus Conference had ‘Inspiration’ at its core. The challenge was to motivate delegates to feel and do something new or different. After a four-year COVIDimposed hiatus, smiling faces abounded. Everyone certainly appeared fired up and motivated. The opening ‘Orange Party’ on Friday evening in the gardens set the scene, with drinks, nibbles, and a chance to rekindle friendships and network… and that was just the beginning.

Hosted by Queensland television personality, Jillian Whiting, the 2022 Eyecare Plus conference kicked off with a topic that all optometrists are keen to get a better grasp of: Medicare.

Simon Hanna, well known for his passion and knowledge, explored the general Medicare and private billing landscape. Optometry is a small player, with around just 4% of Medicare billing. He detailed available item codes and explained why some are underutilised. Three quarters of billings relate to just five item numbers. In a concurrent breakout session, Elizabeth Cassidy, and Lara Markham from The Australasian College of Optical Dispensing ran dispensing workshops. On the topic Big tips for little faces, Ms Cassidy stressed the importance of using language that younger patients understand, making eye contact, and being aware of their body language and attention span. Additionally, she spoke on interpreting and explaining the Rx, special frame and lens considerations, and managing potential conflicts between parents and kids as far as fashion, function and safety are concerned.

Ms Markham provided useful tips and insights on Dispensing smarter, not harder, including determining needs based on work/ activities, and the importance of using the optical cross to visualise meridional powers to aid frame and lens choice. All aspects must be considered, accurate measurements taken, and expectations managed.

Following morning tea in the exhibition area, the discussion turned to marketing with Tim Reid taking the stage. Mr Reid, who migrated from the corporate world to develop a successful career as a podcaster, explained how time, money and complexity were limiting beliefs. He stressed that ‘helpful marketing’ can help you compete with the big players and explained how it’s possible to ‘sell more by selling less’. He covered ‘push’ marketing (direct marketing: deals, print drops, etc) vs ‘pull’ marketing (over time, through referrals from great customer service, products, and skill) and techniques for digital marketing and search engine optimisation. Video is favoured, so add some helpful YouTube videos. Listen to patients’ questions and create an easily accessible knowledge base. Obtain potential client data – like an email address – in exchange for something of value.

At a Hoya-sponsored presentation, Professor Carly Lam from Hong Kong shared interesting information from a six-year study on myopia control effectiveness in children wearing DIMS spectacle lenses. Optometrist Sujan Hong delivered the Alcon-sponsored talk, A CLEAR approach to contact lens comfort, providing tips and advice on the roles of oxygen, surface friction, and water gradient technology in improving comfort, and reducing dropout.

STRONGER TOGETHER

Dr Kurt Fearnley presented a powerful talk, Stronger together. His achievements as a paralympic athlete and his service to the disabled earned him an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) award in 2018 and an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University.

One of his prime goals is to help people with disabilities live better lives. After the trials and tribulations of 25 years as a Paralympian he noted that people are most important. Dr Fearnley explained how crawling around in the dirt in a refugee camp in the Middle East with disabled kids helped empower them and their families to look at disability in a new way, giving them choice, power, potential, and hope.

He noted the importance of convincing yourself of an opportunity and embracing it, and said, “never give up”. We underestimate the power we have as part of a unified group, heading in one direction with clear goals and strategies.

The change we can make in someone’s life is very powerful and rewarding.

Among all that, Kurt emphasised, was the importance of ‘finding a laugh’.

HR LAW

Angela Engel, a special counsel lawyer experienced in all facets of employment law, helped clarify some of the complexities of HR laws. She dealt with the minefield surrounding overtime, penalty rates and fees. Notably, while superannuation is payable on regular hours and penalty rates, it is not payable on additional hours worked. She similarly detailed confusing issues regarding meal breaks – if they are not taken, penalty rates may apply for a whole shift!

Ms Engel stressed the need for consistency when managing employees, and to keep accurate file notes, issue warnings in writing and follow policies. Contrary to some beliefs, there is no need for three warnings, but they must be valid. Seek professional advice on serious misconduct issues.

In a concurrent session, Eyecare Plus director and optical dispenser Martin Gregory, who was recently elected Chairman of Eyecare Plus, led the session, Dispensing staff roundtable discussion: knowledge sharing with your peers. Highlights from this discussion were to know your rights/ responsibilities under the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) rules. Set practice policies and meet these rules, while also accommodating your patients’ needs. It’s important to understand manufacturer’s warranty versus patient breakage issues and aggressive/abusive patients are best handled by keeping calm. Take them aside, talk calmly and determine the issues before taking any action.

The Essilor Black & White gala dinner was a great success with much fun, food, music, deserving awards and some heartfelt speeches. Simon Lewis, legendary leader and Eyecare Plus GM over the past seven years was recognised, as was Eyecare Plus founder Anthony Hanks, who although retired for over six years, still has a keen interest. Both received standing ovations. There were many other awards and prizes presented to deserving recipients.

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Sunday kicked off with Sue Langley, a global leader in positive psychology, neuroscience, and emotional intelligence, talking about externalising feelings using moods. She explained that with ‘worst moods’, people pull away and withdraw, while with ‘best moods’ we are more collaborative and focussed.

In one study she quoted, 95% of people rated themselves as ‘above average’, showing that we are not much good at rating ourselves. Neurological systems influence behaviours and choices with positive thoughts increasing dopamine, while negative thoughts reduce levels, resulting in poor choices.

In closing, Ms Langley suggested spending 10 minutes creating a ‘to do’ list of positive things, like reading a novel or planning an enjoyable health drink. Prioritise positivity and set a goal to achieve five or 10 of the things on your list, in 10 days.

Back to business, and Lisa Jansen – an experienced optometrist and professional coach – emphasised the need to be profitable to deliver the best care and to focus on our strengths. We also need to look at reducing and controlling costs.

Ms Jansen recommended developing speciality niches, thereby gaining referrals. Increase prices, charge private fees, buy better, and purchase new equipment that pays for itself. Get comfortable with sales/selling. If you offer zero to zero people, you’ll get zero results. Look at data not emotion.

Like Tim Reid, she recommended ‘non-sales selling’. Some see a ‘no change of Rx’ as an issue. Instead, offer patients a second pair so they can switch specs for their mood/activity, with no adaptation issues. Too much choice is not ideal, so direct your patients by suggesting only the best.

MYOPIA MANAGEMENT

Dr Kate Gifford, well known for her game-changing Myopia Profile activities, delivered the Essilor sponsored talk Making myopia management work in your practice. She emphasised optical treatments as a first step and noted that every 1D of myopia progression doubles the risk of posterior subcapsular cataracts/myopic maculopathy and triples retinal detachment risk. By -6.00 to -8.00D, the risk of myopic maculopathy is 41-times the risk of an emmetrope.

Help parents understand that myopia management can provide a child with clearer vision between Rx updates. Always explain risks and benefits and book regular follow-up checks. Check the fit/accuracy of specs/CLs and optimise as needed. Be ready to answer questions and provide training, tools, and protocols for staff and in the consulting room. Use handouts, brochures, and online resources. www.mykidsvision.org is a parent and child-facing information resource to help parents understand myopia and the steps they can take to help their children.

PRACTICE MANAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

In the penultimate presentation Robert Thompson, Managing Director, Sunix Retail, shared The future of PMS covering the Sunix practice management system.

Latest innovations include new functionality, appearance, and cloud-based versions. Additionally, Sunix now integrates a practice locator, direct booking, and SMS, making appointment bookings and confirmations much easier. New features in the appointment book include pre-appointment forms and notes to enable data to be captured. Referrals and recalls are also more powerful and easier to manage.

Mr Thompson demonstrated the customisable patient record system and integration of images. Flexible features allow customisable screens, where extra lines of information can be added to the records showing lensometer readings, wavefront data, objective/subjective Rx etc.

The dispensing side is also much more graphical with frame images, specifications and pricing displayed. These can all be added to the shopping basket as can contact lenses, solutions, and accessories. Sunix has come a long way since the 1990s.

To close off a successful conference Philip Rose, General Manager for Eyecare Plus provided an Eyecare Plus Update. He explained how Eyecare Plus is constantly adapting to market forces and changes in the eye care landscape. The digital space is now a greater focus, with emphasis on SEO and social media campaigns. A 2023 TV campaign is in development.

As the members of Eyecare Plus age, there is also a focus on supporting succession planning, employee buy-ins, and the acquisition of practices that fit the group’s model. Encouraging younger team members to become owners, be they optometrists or dispensers, is another focus.

Eyecare Plus continues on its successful trajectory, with its members re-motivated, educated, inspired, and enthused following yet another successful conference. The conference was held at The Star on the Gold Coast over three days in October 2022.