Shared care between local optometrists and hospital-based ophthalmologists can help reduce patient waiting time for review and offers an opportunity for these two groups of eye care professionals to collaborate in providing localised care for the benefit of patients, according to study conducted by researchers from the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) and the University of New South Wales. However, the researchers said, trust and relationship building need to be further developed.
Traditionally eye disease patients are mainly managed by an ophthalmologist, but waiting times are long. Optometrists, on the other hand, are more numerous and have greater geographical coverage across rural and urban locations. In the trial, 98 patients from The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital with stable age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma saw optometrists who monitored the progression of their eye diseases, with referral to ophthalmologists as needed.
The researchers found that optometrists not only met expectations, but exceeded them, appropriately detecting and referring patients with additional previously undetected conditions.
“Shared care between local optometrists and hospital-based ophthalmologists not only provides a solution to reducing hospital waiting times but also offers an opportunity for these two key groups of eye care professionals to collaborate in providing localised care for the benefit of patients,” the authors wrote.
They also noted that shared care yielded substantial savings in travel time for participants. They found a significant association between travel time and participation by patients. The study was published in Medical Journal of Australia on 4 June 2012.