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By Helen Carter

A new advertising and awareness campaign by Optometry Australia is making pharmacists and pharmacy assistants more aware of eye symptoms which require a referral to an optometrist.

The campaign highlights the top five symptoms a pharmacist might be presented with which would best be referred to an optometrist for specific diagnosis. They are:

  • Eye pain
  • Flashing lights
  • Excessive discharge
  • Loss of vision
  • Sensitivity to light

Optometry Australia’s National Campaigns Manager Trinity Scarf said the promotion aimed to increase understanding among Australia’s 30,000 pharmacists of the role of optometry.

‘The highly targeted campaign aims to build deeper understanding among pharmacists of the eye conditions and symptoms that are best referred to an optometrist, and how the health practitioners can work more closely to give a complete picture of their patients’ eye health,’ she said.

‘The key campaign messages focus on the role of the optometrist and their expertise in diagnosing and managing specific eye health issues.’

Ms Scarf, together with media agency Media 33 which negotiated excellent value on Optometry Australia’s behalf, developed a schedule of advertisements to appear in six national pharmacy print and digital media outlets from February until August.

‘Early results show a promising start to the campaign, as we’ve far exceeded our projected impressions thus far,’ she said. ‘Pharmacy News seems to have had the strongest response out of our media selection to date.’

A landing page for health practitioners on the Optometry Australia website also displays a graphic highlighting the five symptoms, and points pharmacists to Optometry Australia’s Find an Optometrist search button. Optometrists can also download and use resources on this page when meeting with pharmacists.

Optometry Australia’s National Policy Manager Skye Cappuccio said there was much evidence that patients benefited when referral pathways between health practitioners were strengthened.           

Eye problems are a common reason for patients to seek pharmacist advice, with The Pharmacy Guild of Australia previously indicating that eye-drops are the sixth largest medicinal category in pharmacy.

Eye graphic 5 symptoms

Reinforces previous work

The campaign builds on previous work by Optometry Australia promoting collaboration between optometrists and pharmacists.

This included a sticky note eye-pad for pharmacists which highlighted red eye symptoms and an online course launched in 2016 by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Optometry Australia and Alcon Laboratories to help pharmacists manage eye conditions with non-prescription medicines, improve referral pathways between professions and highlight the expanded scope of practice of optometrists with more than half now being therapeutically endorsed and able to prescribe ophthalmic prescription medications.

Other initiatives included workshops for pharmacists focusing on common eye presentations and when to refer, and the Pharmacy Guild asking Optometry Australia to develop CPD content on dry eye for pharmacists.

Last year Optometry NSW/ACT also developed a series of free networking events for pharmacists, GPs and its optometrist members in the state’s largest regional areas; Orange, Wagga Wagga, Tamworth and Port Macquarie.

The pharmacy/GP engagement evenings which include dinner, drinks, education and networking have proved popular and are continuing. This year’s events will focus on red eye management and working together in glaucoma care and are scheduled for 20 June in Port Macquarie, 4 July in Dubbo and 25 July in Nowra.

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Acknowledgement of Country

In the spirit of reconciliation Optometry Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.