Optical dispensing industry day welcomes new graduates

The Industry Days provide a forum for a range of business professionals to explain to students issues and managent practices about their respective industry sectors.College director Ms Carmel Ellis-Gulli opened the year’s first event, conducted in May, and then introduced orthoptist Ms Lisa Raad – who, along with a colleague manages the visiting orthoptics service See Straight. In addition to the usual orthoptics services, the duo also offers on-site training and professional development programmes to ophthalmic practices.Raad described an orthoptist as a healthcare professional that detects, assesses, diagnoses, and manages eye disorders non-surgically. See Straight staff visit ophthalmologists, optometrists, and optical dispensers by invitation to provide the range of orthoptic services they offer.{{quote-A:R-W:480-Q: Dispensers are expected to have a good, detailed, working knowledge of spectacle lenses and frames as well as a good knowledge of the rationale behind the optometrist recommendations. }}In general, orthoptists are to be found in hospitals, private practices, low vision centres, and centres that offer visual rehabilitation. The two main orthoptic pursuits involve either children’s vision or ophthalmic practices.Raad prefers a hands-on mode of practice and has worked as an orthoptist in an optometric practice, both assessing patients and creating patient managent plans. She has interests in amblyopia and strabismus, those with eye-tracking probls (especially in early primary school children), headache sufferers, and those with blurry vision.It was noted that young people suffering from some of these probls can suffer acadically and that extensive use of digital devices can often exacerbate the probls experienced. See Straight caters for both children and adults with binocular vision probls, visits schools for screening and the provision of advice, and can visit optometric practices should the practice not cater for binocular vision issues ‘in house’.One of the difficulties confronting people with undiagnosed eye probls, especially the very young, is that they have no yardstick against which they can measure their own performance. Simply, they do not know and are therefore unlikely to complain or seek improvent.Raad’s service liaises with general teachers as well as specialist teachers and psychologists that deal with ADHD, dyslexia, and other anomalies. She noted that while many students can pass a simple vision screening battery of tests, the ‘full story’ often goes untold because there is more to vision than just good acuity. Furthermore, probls with spectacles may not just be the appliance, VA, or an Rx issue.Raad views dispensers as an information hub in a practice and says if she is contacted directly by a patient or a dispenser, her advice is that the patient should have a comprehensive optometric examination first. Dispensers are expected to have a good, detailed, working knowledge of spectacle lenses and frames as well as a good knowledge of the rationale behind the optometrist recommendations.Raad still sees a role for eye exercises and also recommends vision therapy in some cases. For example, she might recommend the use of reading glasses with concurrent eye exercises with a view to developing less reliance on spectacles at near distances. However, given that the most widely accepted theory of presbyopia is that it is an age-related loss of the amplitude of accommodation, eye exercises to reduce reliance on a near Rx ses like a forlorn hope.See Straight provides all relevant professionals with a comprehensive report of their findings. In Raad’s experience, most seven-year-olds are capable of providing all the information an eyecare professional might seek.In addition to eye professionals, some young patients require the involvent of counsellors, psychologists, other healthcare professionals, and special teachers because their probls are not limited to the eyes and may have a greater array of issues needing professional attention.


Lisa RaadMichael NasserKeleigh WalshMartin Kocbek

An overview of a local optical laboratoryMr Michael Nasser, general manager of Opticare located in the Sydney suburb of Auburn, offered an overview and an insight into the role of a custom optical laboratory. Its products and services philosophy relates largely to the supply, manufacturing, and fitting of prescription lenses and related products.Opticare also offers ophthalmic instruments, accessories, educational products and programs, a limited range of affordable frames sold on consignment to compete with the heavy-advertising competition, practice managent software (Ocelot), and consulting services.Nasser noted that the appliance side of a practice can account for 40–60% of gross income and is an aspect of practice that cannot be ignored if success is to be achieved.He traced the decline of the laboratory business by stating that Australia hosted about 25 independent labs in 1984 when the company started and that figure was now down to about five.To detail the complexity and calculation-intensive nature of a modern lab, he provided an in-depth flow-chart of the stages order completion requires, from taking an order to delivering a completed product. Orders can be taken by post, phone, fax, ail, or online and missing information or errors in the ordering stage can cause delays.Despite most free-form lenses being a back-surface only process, about 1,000 calculations are required before a machine can be instructed to create the complex surface of a progressive-power spectacle lens.Because of minimum thickness requirents applicable to compound lenses such as polarised lenses, calculations can need human monitoring to ensure that the finished lens is suited to purpose, which may be frame-dependent. After a lens blank has its si-finished front surface taped-over for abrasion protection, the blank is blocked, the surface machine-generated, then polished, followed by engraving.Finally, the lens is coated and then inspected. Nasser summarised his company’s aim as ‘trying to do everything’.Dealing with frame repsBlack Lilly’s Mr Martin Kocbek, president of the Australian Dispensing Opticians Association (ADOA) and also an experienced frame company representative and now frame importer, gave pointers to the students on how to deal with spectacle frame company sales representatives.Kocbek’s first piece of advice was to treat the sales rep with civility and respect as essentially they are filling a necessary role and have a job to do. He noted that not all reps play by the rules and some do not make appointments to be seen and make ‘cold calls’ instead, while some operate exclusively in that manner.{{image6-a:r-w:400}}Generally, practice policy governs how sales reps are dealt with and some may refuse to see those without an appointment because the random arrival of someone danding attention can be quite disruptive to practice flow. Others may accommodate a meeting where possible or suggest a later time.Occasionally, circumstances in a practice change after an appointment has been made and the practice is unable to follow through on the day. Kocbek believes it is up to the rep to accept the situation and negotiate an alternative arrangent.Some practices have been known to ‘ban’ particular reps for repeated unacceptable behaviour or their refusal to abide by the business’ policies regarding visits to the practice.Although most of the students had little exposure to frame reps, especially those in corporate practices where decisions are made centrally and not at the coalface, one student reported their experience with some reps who, while waiting to be seen or after being refused an audience, proceeded to rearrange the practice’s frame display without permission to do so.From the group’s responses, it would se that such behaviour is not uncommon.Kocbek advised the group to sift through the sales reps they encounter to ascertain who are reliable, supply product as agreed, provide information and supporting materials for their products, provide back-up services, and who provide believable market intelligence gathered while doing their job.He warned the group about external sales staff who provide regularly, glowing and exaggerated reports about market activities, sales volumes, and rosy reviews of their own product line beyond what is apparent or can be justified. Most such information can be verified with enough experience.Exclusion of individuals from the practice rains the prerogative of the practice principal(s) or, in some instances, the staff mber assigned the task of dealing with frame reps routinely.Kocbek supported the role of dispensers in being a source of information about products, lenses, accessories, etc., not just frames. He believes that frame reps have a responsibility to provide comprehensive information about their products, such as the materials used, manufacturing processes, unique features and their benefits.Additionally, they are also expected to know how widely distributed particular products are as some offer locale exclusivity to cater for the upper end of the market, along with the full range of sizes available, which sizes are stocked its and which are special orders, etc.Questions about minimum order sizes are sometimes necessary while some sales are linked to the existence or purchase of a branded display stand. Given the high turnover rate of styles and colours in such a fashion-conscious and, sometimes, fickle market segment, returns policies and spare parts and back-up services also need to be assessed before committing to significant purchases.Using some of his own high-end products as examples, Kocbek detailed the design features, materials used and advantages of his lines as he would when interacting with practice staff. Finally, he took the opportunity to introduce the students to ADOA, its mber services – including an ployment portal – and the benefits of mbership.