As we start another year, we speak to professionals across the eye health industry to understand the challenges, opportunities, trends and priorities for the year ahead.

Pippa Martin, General Manager, Glaucoma New Zealand:

Glaucoma New Zealand’s strategy this year is to focus on:

  • Demonstrating to eye care professionals the value Glaucoma NZ plays as a provider of glaucoma support and education. Promoting their support as healthcare partners, engaging them in our updated online education programs, supporting their practices and patients with education materials, and providing support services to patients to encourage treatment compliance and glaucoma knowledge.
  • Telling real-life experiences and stories of our patients, researchers and eye care professionals, to promote the benefit of regular eye health checks and the value of being a member of Glaucoma NZ, to build glaucoma knowledge and understanding and to inspire hope by sharing stories of the latest glaucoma research.
  • Creating meaningful content using a range of digital platforms to educate and support eye care professionals and glaucoma patients, including webinars, and interactive sessions featuring eye care professionals, to reach audiences beyond the bounds of traditional events.

Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer, MBChB, MD, PhD, FRANZCO, Chair, Glaucoma NZ:

There is no doubt 2021 has been an unusual year. We have come to realise that COVID-19 will be part of our landscape for the foreseeable future. This provides challenges for both glaucoma patients as well as for eyecare providers. For patients with glaucoma the challenges are three-fold.

First, some patients may feel apprehensive seeing their optometrist and ophthalmologist because of the levels of COVID-19 in the community. However, for those patients with advanced glaucoma, this will pose be a significant risk, in particular, because glaucoma progression is usually silent – even in advanced cases. Therefore, optometrists and ophthalmologists will need to ensure clear communication and an increased importance on recall for patients to understand the importance of regular eye checks, as well as share the significant COVID-safe measures in place to build trust in regular eye checks.

Second, another challenge facing us all is learning to communicate meaningfully wearing masks. Many of our patients have hearing impairment and therefore, eyecare providers need to remember to speak clearly and loudly and even check if they can be heard. Patients may feel awkward about expressing that they are struggling to hear. In addition, in glaucoma care, patient-eyecare provider communication is critical. It is important to say verbally what we used to say with a smile, which is more difficult to see wearing masks. We need to all take an extra moment so we can make sure we are connecting with each other.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased isolation for all of us – and this has impacted on our elderly patients. Patients may have questions and concerns that they have less opportunity to clarify. One avenue that may assist in addressing this is to refer our patients to organisations such as Glaucoma Australia and Glaucoma NZ. Both organisations are aware that their websites are being visited more often and both organisations are constantly providing up-to-date information so that patients can stay connected with glaucoma developments and support.

However, looking ahead we are confident that with increased education and awareness through Glaucoma NZ and our partners, along with dedicated research into the condition, the rates of undiagnosed glaucoma will continue to reduce and patients will be supported in their treatment journey to eliminate avoidable blindness due to glaucoma.