New optical group secures major exclusive lens partner

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 more

Improvements needed in healthcare communication: OA

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Optometry Australia (OA) has called on the Federal Government to improve digital communication systems so that patient information can be shared securely and more efficiently. 

OA chief executive officer Ms Genevieve Quilty told Insight that if the Australian Digital Health Agency committed to making secure message delivery interoperable, optometrists would not need to invest in several systems to communicate with GPs, ophthalmologists and other optometrists.

“Once secure message delivery systems are interoperable across providers, we would like to see secure messaging capability integrated into existing optometry clinical practice software so that the transfer of patient information is seamless and safe,” she added. 

Currently, secure messaging systems for optometrists are accessed through a secure web portal or a separate program. By comparison, secure messaging is integrated with all major general practice clinical software systems.

Ms Quilty stated that while general practice had received incentive payments from the Government to implement digital health technologies such as the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (now known as the My Health Record) and secure message delivery, no similar incentives had been extended to optometry to support the profession’s move to digitalised forms of communication. 

“[This is] disappointing given current government and community expectations, and something we will continue to raise at relevant forums,” Ms Quilty said. 

OA’s appeal follows the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ (RACGP) release of a position paper on the use of secure electronic communication within the healthcare system. 

The paper, which was published last week, called for all healthcare services and government agencies that communicated patient information with GPs to eliminate paper forms and faxes within the next three years and to replace them with secure digital communications.

“It is somewhat bizarre that in an advanced era of rapid and timely electronic communications many Australian healthcare organisations still use the fax machine as the most important document communications device,” RACGP president Dr Frank Jones commented.

“General practice has been equipped to communicate digitally for over a decade and we must embrace it now as the benefits for patients and practices will be enormous.”

Ms Quilty agreed that secure digital messaging offered numerous benefits to optometrists, including improvements for workflow efficiency and healthcare provider collaboration, in addition to added security and privacy for patient clinical information.

Regardless of whether information is communicated electronically or via paper, Ms Quilty advised, “Optometrists are obliged to act in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles and take reasonable steps to protect the patient’s personal information. 

“OA recommends all electronic transmission of sensitive information, such as sending a patient referral, is secured using a form of encryption,” she added. more

Intraocular lens prices under review

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Federal Department of Health is to review pricing for products on its mandated fixed-price Prostheses List, including intraocular lenses (IOL), which are inserted after cataractous lenses are extracted.

Prices for products listed on the Prostheses List have not been changed since 2006, even though prices overseas have fallen.

The crux of the matter comes down to the substantial differences in prices to private versus public patients for the same medical device, with prices to major public hospitals and large private hospitals who can negotiate bulk deals contributing to the situation. If a patient is provided with a listed prosthesis at a private hospital, it costs considerably more than if it is provided at a public hospital.

Private health insurance funds have blamed the price discrepancy on suppliers, calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate the high prices the funds are being charged for prostheses such as IOLs, internal heart defibrillators, cardiac pacemakers, coronary stents, and knee replacements. However, ACCC chairman Mr Rod Sims said on 23 September that the Commission would await the results of the Federal Government review before considering an investigation into the concerns.

The health funds cited an IOL used in more than 6,000 private procedures in Australia during 2015 as costing $374 versus $88 in the UK and $33 in Turkey. Another example was an internal heart defibrillator costing $52,000 locally compared to $28,040 in the UK, $22,460 in Ireland, $19,284 in Portugal, $16,645 in the Czech Republic, and $15,318 in Sweden.

The funds maintained that they could save $800 million if the prices on the Prostheses List were reformed, which would lead to lower premiums.

The Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) opposed the funds’ claims, with then chief executive officer, Ms Susi Tegen (a former CEO of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists), speaking out against a reduction in prices for prostheses. 

She pointed out that while health-fund premiums had increased significantly, the price of medical devices had not.

Clinicians should be at the centre of specifying patient care, not health insurers, Ms Tegen said. 

Soon after, in an unconnected move, Ms Tegen resigned from her position at the MTAA, citing health grounds.

Some of the MTAA’s members include the large American diversified health suppliers Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic.

Private Healthcare Australia, which covers larger health funds, insisted the facts spoke for themselves: that Australian private patients are paying too much for medical devices compared to public patients and comparable international markets. more

Hoya launches 3D custom-frame technology

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Behavioural optometrists barred by children’s hospital

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J&J enters cataract market through acquisition

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

AMO is known for its intraocular lenses. Credit: Frank C. Müller

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to buy ophthalmic equipment supplier Abbott Medical Optics (AMO), marking its entry into the cataract surgery market.

The US$4.3 billion (AU$5.7 b) acquisition of Abbott Laboratories’ wholly-owned subsidiary will include ophthalmic products in three business segments: cataract surgery, laser refractive surgery and consumer eye health. 

“Eye health is one of the largest, fastest-growing and most underserved segments in healthcare today,” J&J Vision Care company group chairman Ms Ashley McEvoy said. 

“With the acquisition of AMO’s strong and differentiated surgical ophthalmic portfolio, coupled with our world-leading Acuvue contact lens business, we will become a more broad-based leader in vision care. 

“Importantly, with this acquisition we will enter cataract surgery – one of the most-commonly-performed surgeries and the number one cause of preventable blindness.”

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 20 million people are blind from age-related cataracts and there are at least 100 million eyes with compromised visual acuity caused by cataracts. These numbers are believed to be rising due to population growth and increasing life expectancy.

It was said that AMO, which reported sales of US$1.1 billion (AU$1.5 b) in 2015, is a global leader in ophthalmic surgery and is known for the intraocular lenses it produces for use in cataract surgery, presenting an attractive growth opportunity for J&J in a new market. 

In addition to the cataract business, AMO has advanced laser vision (LASIK) technologies designed to enhance surgeon productivity and correct near sightedness, far sightedness and astigmatism. 

The acquisition will also include AMO’s consumer eye-health products, such as its non-prescription eye drops for dry eye and its multipurpose solutions and hydrogen peroxide cleaning systems for contact lens patients.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017, subject to customary closing conditions. more

UNSW revamps optometry program

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

UNSW’s School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS) has announced several changes to its optometry program. 

For the past 10 years, the SOVS has offered a double undergraduate degree comprising a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Optometry to those seeking to pursue a career in optometry.

From 2017, however, a new Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Clinical Optometry program will replace the previous double undergraduate degree. The new program will comprise a three-year undergraduate course followed by two years of Masters-level coursework, which includes a research project. 

The Bachelor of Vision Science will also be available as a standalone thee-year undergraduate course for those seeking a career in vision science.

Head of school Professor Fiona Stapleton told Insight that SOVS regularly reviews its programs and how they compare to those offered in other jurisdictions, noting that the recent changes came about after one such review. 

“The skills and competencies taught in our program were more closely aligned with a Masters by coursework according to the Australian Qualifications Framework. As a result, our program has now been revised,” she explained. “The recent changes are recognition of the level of training and education offered by the UNSW SOVS.”

Prof Stapleton added that Commonwealth Supported Places would be available for the Bachelor of Vision Science/Masters of Clinical Optometry program at UNSW. 

“Often this is not available in many coursework Masters programs, many of which attract high fees beyond HECS,” she stated. “This means that the Bachelor of Vision Science/Masters of Clinical Optometry remains an equitable program that is open to everybody.” 

The first student intake will begin the new program in February 2017. more

Majority of health-fund members consider dropping, reducing cover

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 more

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