By Troy Patterson

Specialized eyecare will be a key competitive edge in 2017 and beyond in an industry inundated by undercutting online services.

Focusing on specialized vision issues, therapeutic optometrics or developmental optometry will allow eyecare professionals to stand out from both a professional and business-sustainability standpoint.

This level of professionalism is impossible to offer in an online business, so sub-specialties can take advantage of the growing need for services that provide treatment for low-vision, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, amblyopia and others.

Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis of outlined how his brand of vision therapy is a lifechanging and rewarding direction for optometry.

Sub-specializations need to happen in order for optometry to grow,” he says.

Where he sees optometry heading from a demographic standpoint is increased offerings of treatment and services for baby boomers and aging seniors (such as for macular degeneration), as well as services to assist in the diagnosis of vision-related learning issues in children and the vision needs of younger generations whose eyes are frequently exposed to technology.

Nikolakakis noted that nutritionists and holistic health professionals are also putting themselves in line with optometry by educating people about how nutrition plays a key role in preventative eyecare.

Sub-specialties will continue to grow because they allow practices multiple sources of revenue. They also give new reasons for customers to visit their locations, rather than ‘impersonal’ online businesses that can’t give personal, face-to-face feedback and suggestions.

Nikolakakis believes providing “therapeutic prescriptions” rather than diagnostic assessments allows optical professionals to meet the needs of patients through a series of treatments, rather than writing a prescription and sending them on their way.

He gave examples of the impacts he’s seen on patients in school, life, sport and art, adding it provides a high level of job satisfaction for the eyecare professional, as well as a demonstration of quality of care for the patient and their family.

eSight’s low-vision glasses continue to impact the lives of patients with issues such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

It’s being driven by the fact that with every passing year our population is getting older and with the diabetes epidemic, it’s becoming much more prevalent,” says eSight’s Taylor West. “At eSight, those are two diseases we’ve had a lot of success with. Those are low vision conditions where we’ve been able restore people to pretty much near-normal low level vision.”

In 2017, the company is looking to get even closer to that low vision community, including clients and non-profits and government agencies that work to support those individuals.

eSight continues to work with its patients to build on the software and hardware that benefit its users across North America, and soon to be Europe and other markets.

Across Canada, there’s a huge emphasis on innovation in the medical sector,” says West. “That applies to hospital care, that applies to primary care, but it also applies to medical devices like eSight. We can start to look more critically on not only how the technology has changed, but can we have higher expectations for what we can provide to that individual.”

Dr. Charles Boulet’s was happy to talk about the complexity of vision, brain injury and perception, and how children often struggle without some fairly straightforward intervention.

Describing ‘developmental optometry,’ Boulet noted a University of Waterloo research paper that provided some notably strong support for the link between visual function and learning.

Boulet says more common obstacles to classroom learning and full childhood development include amblyopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, convergence insufficiency and so-called ‘tracking’ problems.

Contrary to popular myth, these can all be treated at any age,” he says. “Developmental optometrists also manage strabismus, where eyes are improperly aligned. Using optical and behavioural techniques, eye alignment can often surpass surgical results and this with superior motor control and less risk.”