Optometry: Professionalism and the Internet

Member of the College of Optometrists Daniel Hardiman-McCartney talks about the space the industry occupies between healthcare and retail, and about where social media comes into play.

 

‘Both online and at retail premises, as a professional it’s absolutely crucial that you maintain a level of integrity so that you always act in your patient’s best interest. But social media pushes the boundaries of what people want and stretches your integrity. You could just become a seller of goods or a journalist of social media stories.’

Daniel Hardiman McCartney is a member of the College of Optometrists. Optometry is somewhat unique in the medical profession, because it’s largely delivered through a retail platform.

 

Encouraging the Public to Check Their Eye Health

 

As for the problems of being a seller of goods in the new Internet age, Daniel explained that a big dilemma is whether to charge a true cost-based fee for a sight test, which might be £75 or £100. ‘Many doing this have found that people don’t access eye care services, so optometrists have been charging very low fees for sight tests, £10 or £15 pounds. They then recover the cost of delivering eye care through the sale of glasses – that’s why they can seem more expensive than you’d expect. With online spectacle companies and people being able to buy their glasses wherever they wish, a real challenge is created for us. If you’re carrying out a sight test and making a loss on it, then patients buy their glasses online. That’s not a sustainable model of eye care provision. Do you increase fees and restrict access to eye care, or do you restrict choice by trying to encourage people to purchase glasses where they get their eye care?

‘We resolved the problem by putting up our fees and then letting the public have the choice of where they go to get their eye care. We found that people actually stayed loyal to us. They valued the eye care component sufficiently; they thought it was fair enough to pay more for it and have the freedom to purchase glasses wherever they wish.’

 

How Much Advice Can You Give Over Social Media?

 

As for the problem of becoming a social media journalist, Daniel explained, ‘With social media, let’s say someone is concerned about their eyesight and posts something on our Facebook page. I might want to respond, “Oh, that’s probably this problem.” But without performing a full examination, I could be doing that person a disservice. Others who see the response might become confused and think they, too, are having this problem and therefore have x condition. Even though you might want to leap in and be helpful using this new medium, it’s better to step back. The appropriate response is to say, “Actually, you need to come in and have your eyes examined to see what’s going on.”‘

 

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