UK practices plan for AI use

June 13, 2024 Staff reporters


A General Optical Council (GOC) survey of its UK practice members found a quarter of respondents plan to use artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual assistants within their businesses in the next two years.


Of the respondents, 73% said they had introduced a new or improved clinical service to patients over the last three years. These innovations were driven overwhelmingly by patients, with 99% of respondents citing their desire to improve customer experience and 92% citing patient demand. For businesses that have introduced new innovations, the greatest benefits have been attracting new patients (68%) and increased revenue from existing patients (52%).


While the results show an increasing uptake of digital technologies, they also revealed workforce challenges, with 67% of respondents saying they have had difficulties recruiting staff and 76% having used locums at least occasionally over the past year. The challenges were felt more keenly by independent practices, with only half saying they expect to grow in the next 12 months, compared with 61% of the chains. Independents were also shown to be less likely to use technologies such as interactive websites, virtual assistants and autorefractors and more than twice as likely to have over 70% of their sight tests funded by the UK’s NHS.


It’s positive to see so many businesses introducing new services, innovating in service delivery and planning to use new technologies, said Steve Brooker, GOC director of regulatory strategy. “However, we are alert to concerns, with businesses telling us they have problems recruiting staff and many expecting difficult times ahead for the industry.”


The GOC’s findings are based on surveys completed between December 2023 and January 2024 by 214 registered businesses, representing 7% of its registered business population.