Association of Optometrists publishes five-year strategy in response to reforms and new tech

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has published its new five-year strategy, responding to the “profound changes” in UK eye care driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With “proposed health reforms and new technology set to transform the way eye care services are commissioned and delivered”, the strategy begins by noting that “the need to adopt innovative new ways of working was essential during this time, from the use of remote consultations to triage patient need, to the rollout of the CEUS model that brought together eye care services in a new way.”

The strategy lists the five key pillars that will underpin AOP’s work over the next five years: to create a vision for legislation and regulation; to build external influence and policy making; to be leader and catalyst for change among new healthcare systems; to help shape the view of the current market to determine where and how resources should focus; and deliver a business model to enhance their position in the sector and ensure delivery of services.

In line with this, AOP share some of the external influences that impact their work and strategy, including “developments in technology” which are “changing the way optometrists and clinicians work, along with what is possible for patient care and the way that care is delivered in optometry.” They also note that “digital technology, including the remote provision of clinical services, as well as the General Optical Council’s call for evidence on the Opticians Act, could have regulatory implications including evolving standards for the sector.” Another external influence is that “optical businesses are rethinking their operations to adapt to what customers prefer and what online technology enables.”

For the first of the pillars, creating a vision for legislation and regulation, AOP share that they intend to “build a preliminary model of the impact of AI and automation on sector practice.” They will then “monitor take-up of new technology and the impact on the market, and adjust the model accordingly.” From this, AOP will “feed the knowledge of technology adoption and impact into a new vision for regulatory and legislative settlement.”

AOP also see a role for digital in the second of their five key pillars, focusing on building external influence. They pledge to “improve our existing website and identify and deliver new digital services to enhance the AOP’s two-way engagement and communications with members and the external world including the media.” Moving on to the high-level strategic roadmap for 2022-2016, AOP share their intention to “undertake detailed member research to understand preferences and ambitions.” In addition, AOP will “continue to adapt our digital offer to improve two-way communication and better understanding of member and external views.”

Data, meanwhile, is key to the third pillar: to be leader and catalyst for change among new healthcare systems. In order to enable AOP to support members and the UK sector to deliver optometric services within new ICSs and delivery models, the strategy states that they will “produce an analysis on the opportunities and threats in the optometry healthcare space”, focusing on “data and interoperability of systems to support new, broader clinical model beyond just eye care” and “innovation and technology”, among other factors.

For the fourth pillar, centring around economics in the optical sector, AOP share some key activities to deliver change, based around their ambition to evidence financial and workforce modelling to enable the development of their strategic ambitions. Technology will be used to help with the modelling: among the activities is the plan to “model the size of the optometric workforce that currently exists and will exist… and that which is needed to provide care for a growing and ageing population, as both currently delivered and with advancement in technology.”

You can read the strategy in full here.