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Impacting Communication in Optometry: Enhancing Health-Service Experiences

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-30, 20:09 authored by Dirk vom Lehn, Peter M. Allen, Helena Webb, Bruce J. W. Evans, Michael Bowen, Holly Dobrzycki
The article discusses a collaboration between sociologists and optometrists that involved, first, an investigation of communication and interaction in eye examinations and, second, a transformation of the findings into assessable impact. The aim of the article is to demonstrate how from the start of this project close cooperation between academics and practitioners has paved the way for the generation of academic contributions and impact on the teaching and training of optometrists. The authors also briefly discuss how their cooperation has continued since the original research and impact projects to address further issues of relevance to both academics and practicing optometrists. The research project was developed to maximise the impact of the research by creating a cooperative relationship between social scientists and optometrists. As the research produced its first findings, the team began to create teaching and training material to help optometrists improve their communication skills. The research project was followed by an ESRC-funded Knowledge Exchange project (KEP) that involved members of the research team, the College of Optometrists (CoO), and practicing optometrists. Together we discussed the research finding and how they could be turned into practical impact, such as educational material, of use for optometrists and those teaching and training optometrists. The research reveals the importance of optometrists’ sensitivity to patients’ orientation and response to professional procedures and apparently minor features of communication to assure the effectiveness of eye examinations. Apparently minor changes in communication conduct, such as in the words and phrases used in questions and descriptions can have important implications for the duration of eye examinations and patients’ satisfaction with the service delivery by optometrists. Thus, the research shows the significance of the quality of communication in eye examinations that has largely been ignored by previous research on the practical work of optometrists. The focus of our research has been on the opening of eye examination and on the production of a small number of tests conducted to assess patients’ vision. Future research will include a broader variety of tests and particularly explore the closing of eye examinations as here optometrists who are primarily concerned with clinical questions begin to hand over patients to the commercial arm of the practice. Findings from the extension of the research will lead to the advancement of teaching and training material published in professional magazines and offered online to the members of the CoO. The assessable impact developed from the research findings includes articles and assessments published in professional magazines, workshops delivered at optometry conferences, courses on communication in eye examinations taught at university, and an online course for members of the CoO. These activities allow practicing optometrists to collect professional development points (CPD) required to continue practicing as optometrists. Based on the KEP we continued to produce CPD material and together with the College of Optometrists developed a credit-bearing online course for the College’s members that within the first year had an enrolment of almost 600 optometrists nine months after its publication. The research and impact case have been used to develop teaching and training material that practicing optometrists use to improve their communication and interaction with patients. Thus, the cooperation between social scientists and optometrists has been effective in contributing to the improvement of a critical health service. Moreover, the project has demonstrated how the close cooperation between social scientists and practitioners in the development and undertaking of a research project can be a powerful way to ensure the practical and social impact of research. The originality of the article is grounded in the close cooperation between social scientists and practicing optometrists already at inception of the research project. This cooperation underpins the generation of contributions to academic discourse in the social sciences, such as discussions on interaction in health services, and of practical and social implications. We have experienced the cooperation between social scientists and (practicing) optometrists not only as beneficial to the development of assessable impact but also as a project utterly enjoyable and rewarding to all members of the team.



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European Journal of Marketing





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  • Accepted version


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Faculty of Science & Engineering

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