Practicing and delivering best optometric practices lifts the standard of vision care to the community
The World Council of Optometry under the World Health Organisation defines optometry as a healthcare profession that is autonomous, educated, and regulated (licensed/registered), and optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.
Optometry courses fully prepare the optometrist to provide primary eyecare services which include examining the eyes and providing care and treatment to maintain, restore and enhance a person’s eyesight via prescription of corrective lenses, vision therapy and consultation.
Secondly, an optometrist is trained to screen for eye diseases and refer to ophthalmologists for early intervention and treatment. Optometrists can specialise further in subspecialties like myopia management, low vision, sports vision and binocular vision.
Upon completing a Degree in Optometry, an optometrist can work in a wide range of areas from private optometry centres, public and private hospitals and eye clinics, manufacturers of ophthalmic products, research and academia.
Founder and CEO of Vision Space Optometrist, Woon Pak Seong is a key opinion leader in the eyecare industry both locally and regionally. He frequently speaks and trains at local and international optometry conferences and serves as an external lecturer and examiner at optometry institutions. A past president of the Association of Malaysian Optometrists, he currently serves as an advisor to AMO.
Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Optometry from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1995, he worked for nine years as an optometrist for a chain optometry centre and an independent optometry practice before starting Vision Space Optometrist in 2004. He has two practices and a team of 10 optometrists focusing on providing complete primary eyecare services.
Incorporating best practices
Describing the current state of the eyecare industry in Malaysia Woon said: ”Currently, the majority of optical centres offer just the correction of vision with spectacles, contact lenses and sunglasses.”
Regarding Vision Space optometry practices and services, Woon said: “We saw the opportunity to provide comprehensive visioncare as best and professionally as we are taught at the university as well as applying global best practices.
“By providing comprehensive optometry services which in addition to correction of vision with spectacles, contact lenses and sunglasses, we include eye health screening, myopia management and vision therapy. In doing so, we bring the highest level of eyecare to our patients, by picking up eye diseases way earlier for timely intervention by eye specialists and healthcare professionals.
“We form strong collaborations with eye specialists, GPs and other healthcare professionals to bring complete and wholesome eyecare and healthcare to the public. We specialise in myopia management, where we help children to slow down the progression of short-sightedness with lifestyle consultation, DIMS optical lenses, Misight contact lenses and Orthokeratology.
“Together with fellow optometrists and their optometry practices, we learn from each other, incorporating best practices, improving skills and services, and investing in the latest in eyecare equipment. There is healthy competition as we inadvertently push each other to perform better. At the end of the day, the public benefits from better vision care, and there is a sense of pride in the profession for the services rendered.”
Woon sees the importance of working together with industry partners in lifting the profession.
Mentioning one example of such partnership is with Johnson and Johnson Vision Care’s ACUVUE: “Beyond providing contact lenses, they have helped us in moving our optometry practice forward by inviting us for their conferences and training and giving us their suggestions for improvement. This helps us to continuously evolve our practices to be better based on what we’ve learned.”
During the pandemic, Woon said the ACUVUE partnership actively organised seminars and workshops via zoom, teaching and offering ideas to keep the practice safe and solve the logistics of delivering contact lenses to patients.
Technology, digital innovations and artificial intelligence
Woon sees the future where technology digital innovations and artificial intelligence will help optometrists deliver better services to the public.
Teleoptometry and mobile eye examination devices have a role to play where patients, especially those in rural and remote areas, have access to eyecare. Mobile eye examination devices which trained individuals can perform, to send pictures, data to a centre where optometrists and ophthalmologists can check through and decide on who needs the next course of management.
“Artificial intelligence has also started to play a vital role in optometry services. For example, when we take fundus photography, AI can pick up eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma and analyse what stage it is.
“We also have another instrument with AI to check for dry eyes. This instrument measures how much tears the eyes have and for how long before the tear surface breaks up and checks the condition of the oil-producing glands to see the type and severity of dry eyes.
“So, AI is coming in big time and will be a helpful tool for optometrists. I don’t see it as a threat but welcome it as a complementary tool to ease the work process and load.
“At the end of the day, you need optometrists to use and interpret the results from these machines, so there’s always a demand for optometrists,” he quipped. – The Health