National Science Week gets underway tomorrow (15-23 August), presenting the perfect opportunity to reflect on how science and technology continues to advance the optometry sector and the industry’s mission to ensure Australians maintain good vision for life.
With science and technology at the heart of optometry, many major advancements in the industry are proudly being led out of Australia by local researchers and optometrists.
Most recently, Australian scientists led the discovery that regular exercise reduces cataract risk. Whilst a world first Melbourne trial determined that a simple vitamin could stop the onset of glaucoma and even reverse blindness.
Off the back of these two significant discoveries, it’s safe to say Australia continues to position itself as a leading force when it comes to the science of optometry and advancing the way eye health is managed, monitored and maintained.
From a technology perspective, there are also a couple of key areas Australia is leading the charge in, specifically:
Recent COVID-19 restrictions across Australia have highlighted the potential of technology and its necessity when it comes to delivering quality remote patient care via telehealth services.
One such technology is Melbourne Rapid Fields (MRF) visual field software which launched in Australia four years ago as a tool for optometrists to provide portable, rapid and accurate mapping of the visual field loss (side or peripheral vision) for patients who have suffered eye and neurological conditions such as strokes.
The software enables optometrists to ask their patients to complete a field of vision test at home using a desktop computer or laptop, and has played a critical role when it comes to maintaining patient care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Road safety technology
Outside of the home, there are also a range of technologies empowering the way Australians live with low vision or vision complications. Two such technologies include Bioptic Telescope and the Acuidrive, both designed for road users.
Driving is one key area of focus in Australia, with Bioptic Drivers Australia delivering Bioptic Telescope technology, enabling many individuals with permanent central vision loss to potentially pursue independence on our roads.
Central vision loss is often a result of diabetic retinopathy, macular and retinal dystrophies, or albinism. Over 628,000 Australians are tipped to have medical conditions that could cause it, many of whom are active on Australian roads and potential users of bioptic driving technology.
The Bioptic Telescope is a lens system with a telescope attached to a pair of glasses, just above the driver's line of sight. This allows the driver the ability to better detect finer details such as road signs and traffic lights by briefly glancing intermittently into the attached telescope.
When it comes to monitoring driver vision on Australian roads, Hobart optometrist Ben Armitage is working on technology designed to quickly and accurately test a driver's vision.
Known as Acuidrive, Mr. Armitage’s contribution could completely change the way driver eyesight is legally enforced on Australian roads by enabling police officers to test a driver’s visual acuity by replicating the standard six-meter reading test.
Be it in the home or on the road, Australian scientists and optometrists are having a huge influence on the advancement of patient care and independence. This, alongside the ongoing scientific discovery of eye related conditions and treatment through research, plays a critical role in ensuring as a nation we are maintaining good vision, for life.
And while the experts continue to deliver revolutionary science and technology within the sector, it’s important that on an individual level we all do our part to ensure good eye health by making regular visits to the optometrist.