Disruption by design, can we create the perfect storm?

Our Clinical Adviser reports on a recent roundtable event hosted by the College to discuss the future of the optical profession.

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Author: Daniel Hardiman-McCartney MCOptom, Clinical Adviser
Date: 12 December 2016

Is it possible to create the perfect storm? Can a sector guide change into a force of good? A force of good for all stakeholders: good for practitioners; good for business; good for the public and the communities that we serve? It may sound like quite a tall order, but that is precisely the ambition of the College following publication of the Foresight and Optometric Workforce Survey reports, earlier this year. Using structured discussions based on the reports’ findings, the College recently hosted a round table event inviting industry stakeholders to share their insight and expertise, systematically considering the areas which sector leaders believe to offer the key opportunities and challenges.   

The report of the event, published last week, makes for interesting reading, unapologetically discussing some tough and controversial topics facing the sector such as the effects of automation, deregulation and the increasing numbers of optometry graduates. Rather than attempting to merely predict what the future holds for optometry, the event aimed to establish an approach which will empower the profession in the years to come. Using a ‘what needs to change’ and ‘what can we do about it’ approach for each topic, the event produced potential actions that strive to ensure we will be in as good a position as is possible to adapt to future change, and to profit from the opportunity it brings.

There is a lot to take in reading the round table discussions, but, for me, the big take-home message was abundantly clear:  in order for us to remain indispensable, professional development and training is critical, and this will require a personal investment of both time and resource. Be it treating minor eye conditions, glaucoma monitoring or independent prescribing, only when we are all upskilled can we tender for and commission community schemes on a scale significant enough to enable us to enhance our current business model. If, as practitioners, we ensure we are fully equipped for and open minded to change, the College, along with other key stakeholders, can be committed to offering significant levels of support and resources to develop the right environment for us to continue to practise in an evolving world. 

Predicting whether or not innovation is likely to be disruptive to such a core area of healthcare, has considerable economic value, not just for investors and entrepreneurs, but also for our profession and future careers. I feel genuinely reassured that the future is being taken so seriously by the stakeholders who have contributed to the initial Foresight report and the subsequent round table discussions. I hope the next steps will include input from the disruptors and visionaries who are challenging the status quo, this will help focus our thoughts even further. 

Can we create the perfect storm to evolve our profession positively, to harness innovation so that it improves patient care and increases our cost effectiveness? Yes I believe we can, and I also believe if we don’t, someone else will. As optometrists we must be very clear in the future what our product is, what it does and how much it costs. As a sector we must remain mindful that, despite our best efforts, change can be unexpected: the free hand of the market is as unpredictable as it is innovative. Notwithstanding that, the report ends ‘We must shape the future. It must not shape us.’ and who can disagree with that.  

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney MCOptom
Clinical Adviser, College of Optometrists

Daniel graduated from Anglia Ruskin University, where he won the Haag Strait prize for best dissertation. Before joining the College, he was Managing Director of an independent practice in Cambridge and a visiting clinician at Anglia Ruskin University. He has also worked as a senior glaucoma optometrist with Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and as a diabetic retinopathy screening optometrist. Daniel was a member of Cambridgeshire LOC from 2007 to 2015 and a member of the College of Optometrists Council, representing its Eastern region, from 2009 to 2014.  

Daniel has an interest in the effects of vision in art and is known throughout the industry as a passionate advocate of iconic and artisan eyewear. He currently practises part time in independent practice, is a locum, a glaucoma specialist optometrist across East Anglia with Newmedica and is clinical adviser to the College of Optometrists.

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