Mix and match

30 July 2021
Summer 2021

Clinical editor Jane Veys considers the advantages of a blended healthcare approach.

My time at The Vision Care Institute taught me that best-practice education is a mix of online and face-to-face activities – leveraging the strengths of each to increase knowledge transfer and engagement. This blended learning approach provides opportunities to use digital tools before, during and after face-to-face interaction, ensuring more effective use of time for student and teacher, and allowing skills and knowledge to become more deeply embedded. 

This ethos applies to a blended healthcare approach too, and the experiences of the pandemic have accelerated the need for and provision of more virtual and digital offerings to enhance or replace face-to-face appointments. 

Learners, like patients, are not all the same – what works for one may not necessarily work for another at any one particular point in time. Also, patients’ needs differ – they need to access primary and secondary eye care at different times and in different ways. Whether a new contact lens wearer or a long-standing glaucoma sufferer, a blended healthcare approach can offer many advantages, and integrating appropriate technology along the way can add additional benefits.

Applying and removing contact lenses can be a daunting prospect for the novice, but access to a simple video can help preparation. We can and need to do more to support wearers in their early days. Our article outlines the benefits of videos, online guides and remote support to offer personalised, effective, encouraging education – in addition to patience and perseverance in the early days, until skills improve.

A blended healthcare approach can offer many advantages

The use of technology also presents opportunities for more effective monitoring of chronic conditions and helps to free up capacity in an overburdened hospital eye service. Secondary eye care provision has limited capacity – even before the pandemic it was under pressure. With an ageing population this will only get worse, as many eye conditions need to be monitored for a lifetime. Our feature outlines an exciting innovation to monitor visual fields on a tablet-based system at home. With the hospital eye service currently coping with more than one million glaucoma visits per year, such a scheme could bring significant benefits for both patients and practitioners, and I look forward to further developments.

Another pressure point for the hospital eye service is cataract surgery, and ways to streamline services are under discussion to help manage growing waiting lists. For low-risk cases, immediate sequential bilateral cataract surgery (ISBCS) is a growing consideration, and the pros and cons are explored in our article. ISBCS could certainly free up capacity and reduce the number of hospital visits, but the increased, immediate anxiety this may bring – for both patient and surgeon – cannot be overlooked!

As we transition out of lockdown and move towards a new norm, we need to manage our own and our patients’ anxieties, and embrace technology for the benefit of all. The eye care profession and our patients can expect changing patient pathways and a new mix of remote and face-to-face interactions. The challenge is to find the right mix, to match the differing requirements of our patients at the time of their need.

Jane Veys MCOptom, Clinical Editor
E: jane.veys@college-optometrists.org

Jane Veys MSc MCOptom FIACLE

Jane has been involved in optometry for over 30 years and is an experienced educator, facilitator and scientific writer. She has published more than 50 articles, authored a leading contact lens textbook and created industry leading digital education series.

Following clinical practice and research experience in the UK and Australia, Jane was appointed research manager for the European Contact Lens Research in Manchester, and subsequently joined Johnson & Johnson in 1993. She held senior management positions in Professional and Clinical Affairs, championing evidence-based contact lens practice and patient-centred education for eyecare professionals, most recently as Director, Global Professional Education.

In late 2018, Jane became self-employed and is currently working on a range of collaborative projects in medical education and the charitable sector. She has special interests in eye health education, health promotion and behavioural science and is looking to develop more activities in these areas.

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