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New research shows high levels of innovation across GOC registered businesses



The General Optical Council (GOC) has unveiled the results of its first survey carried out exclusively amongst its business registrants. 

The results show innovation is common across registered businesses and there is an increasing uptake of digital technologies, but that workforce pressures are a key business challenge and there is concern about the future of primary eye care. 
When asked about innovation in clinical services, 73 per cent of business respondents said they had introduced a new or improved clinical service to patients over the last three years.

Drivers of innovation have been patient-centric, with 99 per cent of respondents saying that improving customer experience was a reason behind their decision to innovate, and 92 per cent giving patient demand for new services as a reason. Businesses that have innovated found the greatest benefits to be attracting new patients (68 per cent) and having increased revenue from existing patients (52 per cent). Technology adoption is expected to grow, with a quarter of respondents planning to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and LiveChat / virtual assistants in the next two years.

Looking at business performance, 51 per cent of businesses experienced growth last year and 55 per cent anticipate further growth in the next 12 months. When it comes to challenges, workforce pressures are a key issue, with 67 per cent saying they have difficulties recruiting staff and 76 per cent having used locums at least occasionally over the past year.
There is also uncertainty about the future, with only 40 per cent agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement ‘I am optimistic about the future of primary eye care,’ and most agreeing they expect difficult times ahead for the industry.  

The situation is different for independent practices than it is for multiples over a range of metrics. For instance, only half of independent practices expect to grow in the next 12 months in comparison with 61 per cent of multiples. Independents are less likely to use certain technologies, such as interactive websites, virtual assistants and autorefractors, and are over twice as likely as multiples to have had more than 70 per cent of their sight tests funded by the NHS.

The survey asked a range of questions under the categories of innovation and technology adoption; business performance and challenges; and training, regulation and industry standards.

Steve Brooker, GOC Director of Regulatory Strategy, said: “We carried out this survey to understand more about the businesses we regulate and the issues they face. The results will help us see how regulation may need to adapt to support businesses meet the needs of patients in a changing landscape, and contribute towards a review of business regulation we are currently undertaking.    

It is positive to see so many businesses introducing new services, innovating in service delivery and planning to use new technologies over the coming years, and we will continue to support them to innovate in a responsible way. However, we are alert to concerns, with businesses telling us they have problems recruiting staff and many expecting difficult times ahead for the industry. We would like to thank businesses for taking the time to respond to our survey. We plan to repeat the survey on an annual basis to continue to inform our work and to see how trends develop and change over time.” 

The survey was carried out by research agency Impact Health between 7 December 2023 and 31 January 2024 amongst businesses registered with the GOC. The findings are based on completed surveys from 214 registered businesses, representing 7 per cent of the overall registered business population.

View the full findings of the GOC's survey of business registrants

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