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Australian Specsavers head takes eyecare model global

Specsavers Australia and New Zealand optometry director Mr Peter Larsen, who was influential in the optical chain’s introduction to the local market, has been appointed to a newly created position in the UK.

Larsen is now the company’s first group eye health strategy director, and will be charged with implementing the eye health model pioneered in Australia to the remainder of Specsavers’ markets – all based in Europe.

He said he was excited to be taking “a systematic model for eyecare” to the group’s largest market – the UK – as well as the Nordics, Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands and Spain. Collectively, the company comprises almost 1,350 optical stores in Europe and 35 million active customers.

Mimicking his work in Australia, Larsen’s brief will include the systematic improvement of eye health outcomes and the creation of a commercially sustainable care model catering to the needs of optometrists, medical practitioners and health funders.

“Looking at the past 12 years of development for optometry in Australia and New Zealand I see an industry that has moved dramatically in a relatively short space of time,” Larsen, who is based in Specsavers’ central support office in the Channel Islands, told Insight.

“Optometry now is engaged formally with other stakeholders in each market on actually constructing meaningful activity to resolve significant health care problems. Previously a disaggregated health care workforce, we now have data to demonstrate our value to the respective environments.”

He added: “Our own great leap forward came in 2012 when we installed [digital retinal photography] in every practice and offered it as part of the standard eye examination at no additional charge. However the most significant followed with the constructing of an evolving integrated approach to equipment, technology, collaboration, training and most critically, benchmarking.

“This world-first approach to data now directly informs our activity resulting in better patient outcomes and a much more fulfilling way of working for optometrists where they are not only making a difference, but now they know by how much.”

Larsen was a founding partner responsible for introducing Specsavers to Australia in 2007. During his tenure Specsavers has doubled its glaucoma detection rate which has been correlated with its $40 million store-wide optical coherence tomography roll out, in which resulting eye health data is shared with government, health professions and all eye health stakeholders.

Larsen’s work has also helped ensure the viability of the new Australian diabetes eye-screening program KeepSight. As a board member of the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), he and then-CERA managing director Professor Jonathan Crowston also conceived the idea and funding for an e-referral platform.

Additionally, during a period in which there was a strained relationship between optometry and ophthalmology, Larsen was influential in forming new links with RANZCO under a formal Memorandum of Understanding. In recent years, this has contributed to the establishment of referral guidelines between optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Specsavers co-founder and joint group CEO Mr Doug Perkins said: “Peter has been instrumental in creating and leading the optometry agenda in Australia and New Zealand. In his new global role, his experience will be an invaluable resource to our whole business, ensuring all of our regions are working together to deliver better health outcomes for millions of patients.”

Specsavers Australia and New Zealand director of professional advancement Dr Ben Ashby assumed Larsen’s former role on 1 August.

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