Taking care of your eyes during COVID

Kaye Fallick: The most important thing when I think about function and what matters most for me, John, because I’m a reader – is my eyesight.

John Deeks: Very important.

KF: So we’re very lucky to have Dr. Peter Murphy with us. And he’s going to explain a new initiative, which happens to be free.

JD: Dr. Peter Murphy is from OPSM. Peter, welcome and please tell us about tele optometry. What’s that?

Dr Peter Murphy: Yes. Hi John. Hi Kaye. So tele optometry is a new service that we launched around about mid-April and it’s a service available to provide access to an optometrist for people during the Covid time when it might be difficult for you to visit an OPSM store and you can have a telehealth optometry consultation in the comfort of your own home.

JD: But what’s it cost?

PM: It’s a free service. So we launched this service on the basis that we wanted to ensure that our customers, our patients, had access to eye care and advice from an optometrist. Irrespective of whether or not they could get in to see us face to face with all the recent restrictions and all the different things that have been going on as a result of COVID-19. We wanted to ensure that our customer base had access to an optometrist in a safe and friendly manner.

JD: Ok Peter, I’ve just rung you and I say, hello, it’s John Deeks here. Peter, how can you help me?

PM: Basically, if you’re an existing patient with a file in our record, we would look up your previous records. We would ask you a series of questions. There would probably be two main categories of patients looking for this sort of service. One would be if they’ve lost or broken their glasses and they need to repeat the prescription, and the other is if they have a mild or serious eye health concern. So in one case, it’s helping them in terms of addressing their functional vision and their need to have a new pair of glasses and the other, it might be that they have an irritated or red eye or something more sinister, even a retinal tear or retinal detachment. We can provide appropriate advice as far as what the next steps are to address that concern.

KF: Peter, is this only for existing customers?

PM: No, new customers are welcome. So, it would be a matter of either contacting the closest OPSM store to where that particular person lives or calling our customer care line and they would put you in touch with the closest store. So we’ve got a network of around 360 stores across Australia so it’s quite easy to connect to the closest store. And of course, with tele optometry or telehealth consultation, one of the benefits is that it can address the concerns of people living in remote communities, or people with disabilities, or in aged care communities. In situations where you can’t get in to see someone because of mobility issues or just the tyranny of distance, we’re spread out all over Australia in terms of our store network.

KF: So Peter, I’m trying to imagine how this will work. I’ve phoned up and I’ve got something wrong with my left eye and I’m calling my local store. How does someone look at my left eye in tele health?

PM: There are a couple of things, one is that we use Microsoft Teams for our video consultation, or we can still do an audio consultation, which is purely just a phone call. An example that springs to mind, we had a customer that contacted us and said, “look, I’m spending a lot of time on the computer I’ve looked in the mirror, I’ve got this yellow spot on the white of my eye, what is it?” And using a telehealth consultation, an optometrist was able to look at the appearance of the yellow blob on the white of the eye and say “this is something that we recommend you take some lubricating eye drops for and to sleep more frequently”. Whereas in another case, we would have had someone say, “I’ve got some recent flashes and floaters. And my vision’s a little bit fuzzy.” We would ask them more questions, and on the basis of their clinical history we would determine whether it was a simple migraine, in which case it might require a visit to the GP, or potentially a retinal tear or detachment, where we would organise the referral to the local hospital.

KF: So for the visual, to put it into plain English for our members, they would receive a link to a Microsoft Teams meeting Peter, and they would click on the link and then the eye doctor would be able to see them and look at their eyes.

PM: That’s right.

KF: That’s amazing.

JD: It’s incredible. Isn’t it?

KF: Is there any special message you feel that retirees need to hear right now, as some of whom are locked up at home and many starting to get out and about, in terms of protecting their eyesight?

PM: Firstly, if you do have any concerns with regards to your eyesight or your vision, then help is at hand. We continue to remain open, our stores continue to run through this uncertain time. Nevertheless, if for whatever reasons that you are confined to home and you’re feeling a little bit unsafe going out because of Covid, there’s the opportunity to contact our stores and we can set up a telehealth consultation which is a free service and we’ll be happy to look after you.

JD: Peter, thank you so much for giving up your time today we do appreciate it.

PM: Thanks, John. Thanks. Kaye.