In Contact - September 2016

Ranzco & Specsavers?

In this modern, commercial world we are seeing ever more collaboration between large groups, commercial operations, medical-insurers and so on.

The AA collaboration with Specsavers offering ‘free eye tests’ for AA members and the similarly free eye exams being offered by OPSM to Southern Cross medical insurance members are good examples.

There are various other such things promoted by loyalty schemes and so on. In some parts of the world it is even more complex with a variety of players involved. Some professions are also being ‘controlled’ by either being in an affiliated provider scheme or not. Ophthalmology too has had such arrangements ‘forced’ on it. In recent times we have seen Southern Cross ‘forbid’ its members from having femtosecond aided cataract surgery, to the point that if a patient elected to have this option done - at their own cost - they were then told the medical insurer would not cover any of the cataract surgery! This is in my view crazy and smacks of being unjust and unfair and one wonders if there are vested interests or political issues at play? It makes no difference to their cost if the patient elects to have what they may deem a more advanced option to their surgery. This has led to some of the groups who shelled out on such advanced equipment literally having a million dollar white elephant wasting valuable theatre space. One group even sent their laser unit back to the provider.

I don’t like being economically forced to have to ‘choose’ a certain provider of medical services, which may not be my first choice or the best choice, simply due to financial considerations. When I joined Southern Cross that was not one of the conditions but now it is being forced on me. Of course the insurers will tell you that this is to keep costs under control but there’s more to it than that.

As we know loyalty schemes are designed to make us more inclined to deal with certain companies that reward us for our loyalty. It can certainly lock one in. It does in some cases have benefits but at other times it can make it more hassle or cost more to stay with say a certain airline.

I don’t agree with such control of relationships and the proposed RANZCO-Specsavers collaboration (see news story p6) will not likely foster or enhance good relations between optometry and ophthalmology.

Although RANZCO mentions Specsavers as the largest group in retail optometry they do not represent the majority. All told OPSM commands about one third of the optometry market with independents another third and Specsavers also about one third.

I believe RANZCO have made a mistake in how they went about this initiative, as it should have been inclusive of the whole profession. I do note RANZCO’s point of it being a good test vehicle for their scheme as Specavers run pretty much the same systems throughout their network of ‘stores’. Surely that should have been a clue to RANZCO as they are talking about high level medical collaboration not retail business that takes place in stores?

There are many independent practitioners who I believe could have made an excellent contribution to this process and their speciality practices may in fact have been a better vehicle to gather the valuable data, which is what RANZCO claims to be seeking.

Although the collaboration does not seem to be a commercial arrangement – and they do state that the referral guidelines and education are open to all optometrists – it still does not sit well with the people I’ve had feedback from.

At any rate I gather there are moves afoot to create a more level playing field and potentially we may see some alterations to this proposal over the next while.

It’s also been interesting to note that Specsavers have tried to trademark the word ‘Should’ve’ as used in their clever ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ advertisements (which is already trademarked). Some people think this is ridiculous and that they are unlikely to succeed. ▀