Case Study: Doug Perkins Medal Australian winner – supporting the community through COVID

The metrics used to determine this year’s Australian and New Zealand winners of the Doug Perkins Medal – which recognises the highest standards of clinical excellence and patient care across Specsavers stores – looked a little different from the past two years. Covering a period that was impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, with stores closed or only open for care for various lengths of time, this year’s criteria included measurements on supporting communities with their eye health and vision needs through lockdowns, strong recovery to ensure the ‘backlog’ of patients were seen and supported, consistent collaborative care and positive feedback demonstrating excellent patient care.

The 2021 medal winners were Specsavers Hervey Bay Pialba in Australia, and Specsavers Queenstown in New Zealand – taking home the award for the second year running.

Here, we take a closer look at the data and operations behind the winning Australian store’s success.

A goal in mind

“As a partnership, we made it our goal to ensure we were operating at maximum clinical efficiency and named the winners of the Doug Perkins Medal in our five-year business plan. We never dreamed we’d achieve it in the first year,” says Optometrist Partner Gabriella Pezzuto.

The starting point was a fastidious dedication to reviewing the weekly optometry benchmarking reports, identifying areas that could be improved and putting processes in place to ensure the team had the resources and support to achieve those goals.

“Visual fields are a key tool in our arsenal to detect glaucoma and serious neurological issues, so we focused on identifying those patients who need a visual field, and focused on providing a gold standard for patients with performing these on the same day.”

Comparison of visual field tests as a percentage of patients performed by Hervey Bay Pialba compared to the Australian store average

A key element in ensuring visual field tests are used to detect the prevalence of glaucoma in the community was ensuring the front of house retail team and the clinical team understood the value a visual field test can provide patients, and worked together to support patients.

“We took time to educate our retail team members on what a visual field test can do and why it is such a key element in glaucoma detection. We shared case studies on the types of conditions that can be detected and ultimately treated by identifying via visual fields. The team became experts at diary management to ensure those patients could access a visual fields during their appointment,” says Natasha Cannan, Dispensing Partner.

When COVID hit

The impact of COVID across Australia saw stores operating in a completely different way, but the team at Hervey Bay Pialba made it their mission to support their community through these unprecedented times.

“We saw as many people in our community as we could to help – red eyes, adjustments, ill-fitting nosepads that caused serious irritation, safety glasses for health professionals. We were the only optometrists open during the lockdown and we were reduced to only the three Partners on the store floor, but we’re part of the community and we wanted to be there for everyone,” says Optometrist Partner Sarel van Westhuizen.

When the lockdown lifted, accessibility to eye care was key. With pent up demand knocking at the door, the store increased its trading hours last November and January to ensure they had the capacity to support those patients in need.

Collaborative care

Another element of the store’s business plan was to bridge the gap between GPs, Optometry and Ophthalmology to form a collaborative care eco system to support patients’ eye health.

“Trust is paramount to successful collaborative care,” says Gabriella. “We worked with our clinical team to ensure patient notes, referrals and feedback were shared with GPs and Ophthalmologists, so they knew they’d be kept up-to-date on a patient’s eye health journey. The positive from this was not only excellent patient care, but the trust led to GPs and Ophthalmologists referring patients to us directly, knowing their patients would be in safe hands.”

For those patients with diabetes, regular eye checks and health care plans are essential to avoid vision loss. The relationship the Hervey Bay Pialba store has built with health care providers by sending consistent GP eye reports for these patients and supporting their eye health, has seen a huge increase in patients with diabetes switching optometrists and choosing Specsavers for their glasses too.

“We see at least one patient a day with diabetes in our practice, some days up to four, so much so we have a dedicated diabetes health care plan in place in store. To know these patients trust us with their eye health is an incredible privilege and incredibly rewarding,” added Gabriella.

It’s a similar story for patients with glaucoma. The Brisbane Women’s Hospital refer glaucoma patients back into the community for on-going eye health care, and the trust established between the hospital and Hervey Bay sees many glaucoma patients return to the store for regular eye checks.

Leadership and involving the team

When asked what the number one ingredient in their store’s success is, Partners Sarel, Natasha and Gabriella all said their team – clinical, dispensing and retail team members all working as one.

“We work as a well-oiled machine, with every person understanding the value they bring in making a difference to people’s lives. From the team member who greets and triages a patient, to the person who conducts the pre-test, through the test room, we all bring something to make the eye health journey as supportive as possible,” says Natasha.

“As leaders, we listen to the team and do what we can to remove barriers to make doing their jobs as easy as possible. We invested in new technology to streamline processes and provide the best technology for our patients, making it easier for team members to do what they do best in supporting our patients.”

Daily huddles to share case studies, discussing challenges, listening to feedback and communicating goals and focuses clearly are paramount to this team’s success.

“We make sure everyone, even locums, are rostered and paid to start 15 minutes early every day to attend the daily huddle – it is that important to us,” says Gabriella.

Consistency, a focus on KPIs, dedication to the community and a genuine care to support patients in their eye health journey are the pillars upon which Hervey Bay Pialba has built their practice, and the data demonstrates what a successful foundation that is.