Our new normal: Bespoke equipment for added safety

As we continue to adjust to our new way of living with masks, hand gel and queuing - personal protection has become the priority for everyone. To ensure safety for our OutsideClinic optometrists and patients, we have invested in some new apparatus, and we have even added a new design to our bespoke range of equipment that our optometrists use on a day to day basis. 

Our optometrist kit already includes a digital fundus camera, portable slit lamp, I-Care tonometer and EYEris tablet system. We have now introduced the Welch Allyn PanOptic indirect ophthalmoscope, which provides a greater working distance. 

Additionally, one of our optometrists, Paul Ratcliffe, has created a bespoke breath shield to be used in conjunction with the PanOptic ophthalmoscope, offering increased protection. 

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Paul has worked for OutsideClinic for 16 years, and he designed the shield to make a safer working environment. We speak to Paul about his creation. 

How did you design and create the breath shield? 

Initially, to get an idea of how it may work, I cut up a plastic milk bottle to fit the ophthalmoscope through. I then used a plastic clipboard to do the same process. Then I created a similar design but bigger - almost A4 in size. I didn’t centralise the hole for the PanOptic ophthalmoscope because I wanted as much of the face covered as possible. I also wanted to reduce the risk of catching the patients nose with the edge of the shield. I then considered curving the outside edge to add rigidity and make it more comfortable for the patient, should it contact them. 

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I decided to use grommets to fit each hole for a better finish and to ensure full protection when in use. Once I finalised the design, I brought the required equipment and began making it – I put the bends in the vertical edges of the shield, drilled the holes, fitted the grommets and clips and then I had a working prototype. 

What challenges did you find with the design and creation process?

Originally the intention was to turn it around, back to front, to use for the opposite eye but this put the side that the patient had been breathing on, onto the practitioner side and vice versa which was not ideal. I decided that instead of turning the shield back to front, I would move to two different holes – one for each eye, and rotate it 180 degrees upside down, keeping the same side of the shield to each individual.  

How did you mass-produce it? 

I consulted with a plastics engineer in Leeds regarding production and worked with them to assess usability and make final adjustments where necessary. Once it was ready, we produced one hundred shields in total. I fitted all the grommets myself to save time and costs; then I sent them to head-office for dispersing across the workforce. 

How user-friendly is the equipment? 

It is straightforward to use – lightweight, transportable, easy to clean, non-invasive and it doesn’t hinder panoptic use. I designed it to minimise the risks to both patient and practitioner. I hope that in time there will no longer be a use for it, but during these uncertain times, it serves its purpose and keeps myself, my colleagues and our patients safe. 

If you are interested in joining us, in working in domiciliary and with our exciting optometrist kit then feel free to give us a call on 01793 648 602 or email us at alex.plows@outsideclinic.com to discuss our available positions. 

Keep an eye out for our next article coming soon.

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