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Dispensing wisdom


By Jeff Megahan
Features Editor


Leigh Robinson is a teacher of the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing at RMIT and president of the Australian Dispensing Opticians of Australia (Victorian division). He has a message for early career optometrists: the more you know about dispensing, the better you will fare professionally and commercially.

Robinson says one of the key goals in his new role as president will be to promote the idea that a practising optometrist should also be a skilled dispenser.

As he explains it, the decline in dispensing knowledge across the profession has led not only to an increase in costs but also to a decline in the level of service the patients receive.

‘Younger optometrists would be wise to slow this trend,’ he said. ‘The simple truth is, the more the optometrist and practice staff know about dispensing, the better the patient experience will be.

‘Dispensing errors are not only the root of patient dissatisfaction, they are a drain on time and money,’ Robinson said. ‘Each time a dispensing lab has to verify a prescription, or take the time to clarify what a work order means, there is a cost associated with that. If it happens repeatedly, those costs add up.’


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‘Dispensing errors are not only the root of patient dissatisfaction, they are a drain on time and money’


Robinson says he has seen a general lack of curiosity about the dispensing side of optometry, and encourages young optometrists to pursue this area in their own education. As he sees it, higher costs and delays should not be a part of what every patient has to expect when they get a pair of glasses.

‘Laboratory competition is very hot right now,’ he said. ‘Most practices have a preferred laboratory. Unfortunately, more and more, untrained practice staff members and sometimes optometrists themselves are depending on the labs to figure things out when a work order is sent. This, in turn, means that the labs have to spend time trying to help the optometry staff to correctly write a work order.

‘Increasingly, the untrained staff members are saying: “We know nothing about this, let’s just call the lab and ask them” or worse, just sending a job to the optical dispensing lab and expecting it to come back all fine and dandy.’

As Robinson points out, if left unchecked this attitude will harm the profession of optometry. ‘Patients now expect quality eye care and eyeglasses that properly fit and work. Patients feel they pay a lot for their eyeglasses,’ Robinson said. ‘The successful optometrists are always the effective practice leaders who can move seamlessly from the consultation room to the front-of-shop dispensing room.’


The ADOA was founded in 1955. It supports and protects the status and interests of the section of the optical industry engaged in the dispensing of optical prescriptions and the manufacture and fitting of spectacles.

The ADOA runs continuing education and social events. For information, email or visit its website.

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