In September 2023, the doors will open on the largest optometric event in the region when O=MEGA23 combines with the 4th World Congress of Optometry. Insight details some of the most thought-provoking sessions, and speaks to practice owners about their motivation for attending.
The rare combination of a national and international optical event has presented organisers of O=MEGA23 and the 4th World Congress of Optometry (O=MEGA23/WCO4) with a unique opportunity to create a program that will be of value to the full gamut of the optical sector – with the benefits of attendance to prolong for years after.
Event partners Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA), the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ODMA) and the World Council of Optometry (WCO) have poured many months into jointly planning Australia’s biggest eyecare and eyewear fair with the most credentialed and largest optometric clinical conference in the Southern Hemisphere.
The event (8-10 September in Melbourne) presents a chance to showcase Australian optometry on the world stage – as well as shine a light on the importance of practice managers and optical dispensers. To that end, this year’s O=MEGA23/WCO4 will feature a Masterclass program that will for the first time comprise two separate streams for each profession.
As the weeks countdown to the official opening with a traditional Welcome to Country, Ms Amanda Trotman – who stepped in as ODMA’s acting CEO midway through the planning stages and has since been appointed permanent CEO – says the dynamic event is an opportunity that comes around rarely.
“Time is running out to secure your space at this unique event opportunity and to plan ahead so that you really make an investment that will reap rewards for you and your team well into the future,” she says.
“Join in as the industry comes together and ensure you don’t suffer from the fear of missing out.”
Trotman expects the trade fair will be a bustling space, with 85 exhibitors on the trade floor.
“At the trade fair you will discover cutting-edge brands and the latest technology and innovations presented to you by the experts that can explain how to use their offering to enhance your practice and profits,” she says.
Ms Belinda Musitano, qualified optical dispenser and director of three practices in Western Australia, is travelling to Melbourne with two of her staff to attend the event.
“As a practice owner, I invest in my staff (and myself) attending events such as O=MEGA for a number of reasons. It boosts motivation and enthusiasm in their job, bringing them home full of new ideas that can be implemented in store,” she says.
“It also breaks the everyday routine of ‘this is how we do it’ and challenges us to change our thoughts and patterns around how we practise, how to be more innovative and offer a point-of-difference. Events such as O=MEGA also give us the exposure to new equipment, brands and meeting new people. I personally always come back with a notebook of many areas I would like to introduce to make our patients’ experience in my practices the best they can be.”
Optometry practice owner Mr Jim Papas, who established eyeclarity in Sunbury in 1986 and who is presenting a Masterclass at the event, says he can attest to the value of attending O=MEGA23/WCO4 for three days of world-class education.
“The clinical conference offers up-to-date clinical content that is essential for providing the best possible care to our patients. And the trade fair provides a unique opportunity to see the latest equipment and treatments all in one place, saving you time and money,” he says.
“This is an opportunity to connect with your peers and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in eyecare. This is the premier event for the global eyecare community and not to be missed.”
ODMA, OV/SA and WCO invited two internationally renowned keynote speakers who will each deliver multiple presentations throughout the clinical conference.
“We are delighted to confirm Professor James Wolffsohn and Professor Susan Cotter as our keynote speakers,” Trotman says.
OV/SA CEO Ms Ilsa Hampton is excited about the event: “Susan and James lead the clinical program which has more streams than ever, features both international and local speakers, and given the event is on the global stage in partnership with the 4th World Congress of Optometry, incorporates the latest research and the opportunity for real sharing of ideas from a world of optical experience.”
WCO managing director Ms Alyssa Callaghan says it is a great time to get the optometric community together after COVID lockdowns forced the event to be postponed from 2021.
“We are delighted to have such a strong combined program with O=MEGA, and know that members of the international community are looking forward to connecting with their colleagues Down Under.”
In addition to the clinical conference program, there are streams of Masterclasses with dispensing and practice management topics. In the Trade Fair Knowledge Area, there will be short, sharp tips and techniques sessions provided free-of-charge, plus there are the exhibitors providing in-depth demos on their booths.
“No matter what the practice or what stage of their career attendees are at, they cannot fail to learn and be inspired by this year’s content,” Trotman adds.
Prof JAMES WOLFFSOHN, a Professor of Optometry at Aston University since 2000 and a popular figure on the ophthalmic speaker circuit, is presenting on topics ranging from digital eye strain to procedures for dry eye management and the power of consensus.
“How many hours have you spent on a digital device already today?” Wolffsohn asks Insight’s reporter.
“Reports suggest between 33% and 97% of the population get eye strain when immersed in a digital environment based on current questionnaires, but is this just a manifestation of dry eye or binocular vision problems?”
His presentation on digital eye strain will address how best to define digital eye strain; what the current thinking is on the mechanisms of eye strain in digital environments; and what management strategies are supported by scientific evidence.
“Do marketed therapies such as blue light blocking help? The Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society (TFOS) Lifestyle reports has recently explored the evidence base on this topic, which will be presented at O=MEGA23,” he says.
Wolffsohn, who is head of the School of Optometry and head of the Department of Audiology at Aston, will also speak about changing procedures for dry eye management.
“TFOS DEWS II established a new consensus definition for dry eye and derived a diagnosis based on symptoms, using one of two established questionnaires, and homeostasis loss signs including non-invasive breakup time, osmolarity and ocular surface staining, in 2017,” he says.
“Management could only be presented in stages due to the lack of comparative trials. However, time has moved on, so what evidence do we have that should influence our choice of artificial tears and in-office therapies such as intense pulsed light therapy or photobiomodulation?” he asks, hinting at the content of his presentation.
Wolffsohn’s third presentation, titled The Power of Consensus, will show delegates how consensus reports are developed and how they can be utilised.
“In practice there can be a conflict between clinical intuition, based on experience, and the need for standardisation, based on research evidence. Where should there be latitude and when is there need for prescriptive practice? Using a series of examples, this topic will be explored along with highlighting new resources in the optometry field that can be easily accessed to enhance practice standards,” he says.
Dr SUSAN COTTER is president of the American Academy of Optometry, co-chair of the Paediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group, and a Professor of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University. Among the topics she’s discussing is whether correcting refractive error can change a child’s life trajectory.
“Moderate hyperopia left uncorrected in preschool years may have long-term ramifications, and not just with aspects of visual function such as visual acuity, stereoacuity, and eye alignment,” she says.
“The VIP-HIP research group found that many of these children perform worse on tests of early literacy, sustained attention, visual-motor integration, and visual perception. Optometrists and ophthalmologists need to pay more attention to these children because research suggests that when undetected or left uncorrected, moderate hyperopia in young children could have a significant adverse effect on academic and economic opportunities throughout life.”
In a separate lecture, Cotter will be discussing the risks and rewards of overminus lens treatment for intermittent exotropia (IXT).
“I describe the results from the recent Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group (PEDIG) randomised clinical trial of children with IXT that evaluated the effectiveness of overminus lenses for improving distance control of their IXT as ‘good news and bad news’,” she says.
“The good news was that the overminus lens group had significantly better IXT control at distance when assessed in their overminus glasses after 12 months of treatment compared with the children in the non-overminus glasses control group. The bad news I will save for the presentation.”
Lastly, Cotter is broaching the subject of ChatGPT in eyecare. A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology this year found the artificial intelligence (AI) tool answered less than half of the questions correctly in an exam resource commonly used by trainees preparing for ophthalmology certification.
“From patient consultations and educational resources to research and diagnostic support, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionise the way eyecare professionals interact with their patients and enhance the quality of care provided,” Cotter says.
Her presentation will delve into the advantages and challenges of integrating ChatGPT into eyecare practices.
“Implementing ChatGPT in eyecare presents unique challenges, because there are potential pitfalls, biases, and uncertainties associated with its use in medical contexts,” she says.
“One must consider the ethical considerations related to patient privacy, informed consent, and the responsibility of human oversight when utilising ChatGPT in eyecare practice. While ChatGPT’s potential to enhance patient care is enormous, its limitations are not trivial. The question is, how can we maximise the benefits while mitigating the risks of ChatGPT integration into the eyecare practice?”
Australian optometrist JIM PAPAS will discuss his involvement with the world’s first red light therapy to manage myopia at home.
In the Masterclass Dispensing Stream, Mr Jim Papas will share his experience and observations on repeated low-level red-light therapy for myopia control. In addition to managing eyeclarity, Papas is also clinical director of Eyerising International.
The Melbourne-based med-tech company launched Myproclear, described as the world’s first red light therapy to manage myopia at
home, at the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Congress earlier this year.
“Repeated low-level red-light therapy is an emerging treatment; early evidence shows it is close to 90% effective in arresting myopia progression, shortens axial length in almost 25% of children, with minimal rebound effect if treatment is stopped, and very safe to use,” Papas says.
“This is an at-home treatment which is done three minutes twice a day, four hours apart, five days per week, usually done before and after school and we have shown there is a high compliance rate.”
Papas’ masterclass session will elaborate more on its effectiveness, axial length recovery and the business model to allow an understanding of the treatment’s effectiveness.
Australian-based 2022 International Optician of the Year GRANT HANNAFORD will be discussing artificial intelligence (AI) and the future of lenses.
“Ophthalmic optics has long been an area in which developments in computational techniques have found rapid applications. My presentation (in the Practice Management Stream) will examine core concepts and techniques in the application of big data to models implementing machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he says.
“From a foundation of linear regression and iterative models, I’ll discuss general cases which demonstrate a common pathway used in machine learning. This process is then developed in the context firstly of lens design optimisation, then postural integration into lens design, and the incorporation of large biometric data sets into normative sets for the application of biometric data to lens designs.”
Hannaford’s masterclass will also discuss some of the risks contained in the implementation of machine learning in lens design, and some of the legal and ethical framework surrounding these techniques and applications.
KATE HALL, the national retail operations manager for the independent optometry network ProVision, will feature in the Practice Management Stream on inventory management to maximise profits.
“Managing stock efficiently is paramount for the success of optometry practices, and there are four compelling reasons why it should be a top priority,” Hall says. “First and foremost, it allows practitioners to control their spend, ensuring that financial resources are allocated wisely. By optimising stock levels, practitioners can avoid unnecessary expenses and make better purchasing decisions.
“Secondly, effective stock management directly impacts sales and conversion rates. Having the right products in stock at the right time not only satisfies patient needs but also improves their overall experience. This, in turn, leads to increased sales and customer satisfaction.”
Hall says another vital aspect of managing stock effectively is streamlining cash flow.
“By managing stock effectively, optometry practices can ensure that their cash flow remains consistent and healthy. Unnecessary stock holding ties up capital that could be invested elsewhere, so finding the right balance is crucial,” she says.
“Managing stock with a strategic approach directly contributes to growing profitability. By refining inventory management practises, practitioners can decrease stock holdings, improve product offerings, and make smarter buying decisions, ultimately boosting profitability.”
Hall will be sharing practical strategies specifically tailored for optometry practices.
“We’ll dive into topics such as leveraging supplier partnerships, reducing aged inventory, creating a comprehensive range and buying plan, and simplifying ordering processes,” she says.
“The goal is to equip optometry practitioners with the knowledge and tools they need to optimise their stock management processes, ultimately elevating their practice’s profitability.”
MARK CORDUFF, business services manager at ProVision, will also present in the Practice Management Stream discussing the key components to an effective exit strategy.
With a significant number of practice owners nationally planning their retirement, Corduff’s role at ProVision includes assisting owners plan, then execute, their succession plans.
“There are a number of different options available to practice owners. At O=MEGA23, I will be presenting the key considerations owners should be looking at so they can successfully retire, ensure their patients receive the same care in the future, as well as maximising a return on their investment,” he says.
“Expect insightful information on what needs to be prepared in a lead up to a sale, how to attract potential buyers, how a practice is valued and who you need on your side to support you through the process. The aim of the presentation is that the audience walk away informed, with some tools to start a successful plan of their own.”