OPSM has announced it is offering tele-optometry consultations free of charge, despite there being no optometry Medicare item number for the service yet.
The optical chain, which is owned by Luxottica, is the latest to offer telehealth for its patients as the eyecare sector adapts its service model to align with COVID-19 social distancing and restricted travel measures.
While it has kept key stores open for patients requiring urgent or critical care, OPSM’s telehealth service is designed to ensure other essential eyecare needs are met, regardless of the patients’ location.
At present, optometry isn’t included in the list of telehealth consultations that can be covered by Medicare during COVID-19. In recent weeks, Luxottica has joined Specsavers, Optometry Australia and Diabetes Australia to advocate for changes to two existing item numbers (10916 and 10918) to allow optometrists to bill for telehealth under the scheme.
“OPSM wants to ensure that Australians continue to have access to eyecare services in the current health crisis,” Mr Peter Murphy, OPSM’s director of eyecare and community for Australia and New Zealand, said.
“Our tele-optometry services will help in two main scenarios. The first is where the patient may have an eye health concern. The second is where the patient may have an urgent need to replace their lost or broken glasses.”
Murphy said the service would involve the optometrist asking a series of simple questions in order to evaluate the patient’s eyesight, while patients could also ask questions.
“If the patient has been to see us previously the optometrist will have access to case histories and electronic records, so that an informed diagnosis can be made, and the patients guided through the next steps,” he said.
“In some cases, the optometrist may request that the patient visit an OPSM store for a more comprehensive consultation; alternatively, the optometrist may refer the patient for either general medical care, or direct to a hospital for ophthalmology care if necessary.”