Protecting sight during, and after, COVID-19

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Since the beginning of level three COVID-19 restrictions in late March, it’s no surprise that Specsavers has seen a reduction in the number of patients presenting for eye tests. While Specsavers closed business as usual, it remained open for urgent and critical care whereby local store partners looked after patients with urgent eye care and essential dispensing needs.

While this was an important step in flattening the curve against COVID-19, there is now pent-up demand for eye care services, and Specsavers is focused on providing a safe environment for patients following the Federal and State Governments’ loosening of restrictions.

KeepSight and protecting the sight of those with diabetes is one of the main priorities for Specsavers.  While practices continued to care for patients with diabetes for eye checks during the lockdown, optometrists only assisted 20,000 patients with diabetes between March and May in comparison to the 42,000 projected before COVID-19.

Dr Benjamin Ashby, Director of Optometry for Specsavers ANZ says a careful strategy is in place to look after the demand in a way that is both sustainable and adaptable should tighter restrictions be applied once more.

“We are working on a recall model which accounts for those in our communities who need to be prioritised for care.  From our perspective that means we will be recalling patients with diabetes who have missed their original appointment as a matter of urgency because we do need to make sure that they receive their regular diabetes eye check. Similarly, we need to manage those with other eye conditions such as glaucoma while also factoring in bookings for all of the day to day cases, which is where unusual or previously unknown conditions often present.”

Throughout the COVID-19 period we have been using our own historical data to remind ourselves of what normal levels of activity look like in terms of disease detection and referral. In a typical month our optometrists make almost 3,500 urgent referrals and over 13,000 non-urgent referrals. Clearly, these sorts of numbers indicate the likelihood of serious vision loss due to the lockdown period and we are consequently mindful of the need to play catch-up within a safe and hygienic practice environment.

As Specsavers stands up team members and opens its services more broadly to the public, we are providing patients and staff with a modified practice environment that strictly follows health department guidelines.

Patient safety and team member safety remain the foremost priority for us all. That said, having now opened our appointment books to customers we are seeing a very positive response from local communities looking to catch up with their eye care needs, even before we re-start our own recall routines.

For more information on the KeepSight program visit the KeepSight website.

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