Oculo, a powerful internet-based secure messaging service that facilitates clinical communications between eye care professionals, will be launched nationally in Australia and New Zealand this month.
The service, developed by the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), provides eye care professionals with access to historical eye-imaging data, test results and relevant medical histories, enabling them to provide better care with secure, auditable and shared clinical records. The launch comes after months of collaboration with optometrists and ophthalmologists, thousands of patients and referrals and a growing user base.
Oculo’s current user base is over 400 optometry practices and more than100 ophthalmologists in Australia. In New Zealand, the service has received Government approval as a cloud-based health IT provider.
Professor Jonathan Crowston, Managing Director of the Centre for Eye Research Australia and chair of Oculo, and his fellow-CERA Director Peter Larsen, said the original goal for this service was simply to “be better than a letter”.
“The team has invested thousands of hours to develop privacy and data security controls that mean that correspondence by Oculo is indeed better than a letter, and so much more,” said Prof. Crowston. “It has intelligent prompts and other features to enhance the quality of referrals and to create a shared eye e-health record,” he said.
Oculo has been developed in collaboration with Specsavers, Luxottica, and Bupa Optical and is actively reaching out to independent optometrists. It has built clusters of ophthalmologists around these optometrists to create clinical networks.
Independent optometrist Andrew Watkins, of Andrew Watkins Optometry in Canberra, said Oculo is the way of the future for collaborative patient care, and is “easy, convenient and streamlined”.
Among Oculo’s other early users is Assoc. Prof. Angus Turner, Director of Lions’ Outback Vision, who is trialling it for teleophthalmology with Specsavers, OPSM, and Laubman and Pank sites in Albany, Kalgoorlie and Karratha.
“We are already seeing the difference Oculo can make for patients based in rural and regional areas. It means ophthalmologists can access quality information from across the country to provide more timely, better-informed care,” said A/ Prof. Turner.
Oculo has reached in principle agreements to provide pro bono access to a number of low vision services and patient advocacy groups across Australia in order to promote the timely referral of vision-impaired patients to support services.