By Joe Tanner
Professional Services Manager, CooperVision ANZ
During a series of seven educational events across Australia and New Zealand in October 2015 hosted by CooperVision, optometrists were invited to complete a survey exploring their contact lens prescribing habits and attitudes to certain issues. In total, 324 practitioners participated, 261 from Australia and 63 from across the Tasman.
Looking at the Australian cohort, 49 per cent were practice owners and 38 per cent were employees with 74 per cent working in independent practice.
On average, Australian optometrists see 8.4 (New Zealand 9.7) contact lens patients each week; the highest two practitioners reported that they saw 45. This implies that between them, the group sees more than 2,000 patients each week.
Looking at the replacement frequency prescribed most often, 60.4 per cent (NZ 58.7 per cent) stated it was daily, with 25.8 per cent (NZ 31.7 per cent) nominating monthly. This finding correlates well with the significant increase in daily disposable prescribing over recent years found by Morgan, Efron and colleagues in their annual surveys.
Australasian optometrists are now among the more significant prescribers of daily disposables. Reinforcing this finding, 73 per cent (NZ 69.8 per cent) said they would use daily disposables ‘almost always’ if price and parameter availability were not factors.
The rapid increase in the prevalence of myopia in many countries has coincided with a better understanding of its aetiology and the emergence of effective treatment strategies, including orthokeratology and multifocal contact lenses. When asked about the use of contact lenses for myopia control, 59.5 per cent (NZ 55.6 per cent) said they did not prescribe these two options.
It seems that progressive myopia is being managed actively by some optometrists but perhaps not at all by others. Given the significant and quantifiable risks of myopic refractive error, it will be interesting to see if the proportion of practitioners using contact lenses increases significantly over the next few years.
Digital device use is very widespread in industrialised societies and the growth has been especially obvious since the advent of the smartphone within the past decade. Over 90 per cent of Australian optometrists consider they are seeing at least some (60.2 per cent, NZ 60.3 per cent) or a marked (30.1 per cent, NZ 20.6 per cent) increase in asthenopic symptoms attributable to screen-based activity. These symptoms are present in all age ranges with a possibly higher prevalence in the over-30s pre-presbyopes group.
The last two questions of the survey dealt with the business of contact lenses. While only 14.8 per cent of Australian and just 6.3 per cent of Kiwi optometrists indicated that contact lenses were more financially rewarding than 10 years previously, 52.5 per cent (NZ 41.3 per cent) believe that this form of correction can be at least as profitable as spectacles for most patients.
I thank all the optometrists who participated in this research.