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Optometrists and ophthalmologists working together

image-tools (48)A trial of shared care between optometrists and ophthalmologists for patients with chronic eye diseases has been successful, according to research published in the June 4 issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.

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, led by Professor Jill Keeffe (PhD) from the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) and the University of Melbourne, conducted semi-structured interviews with participating optometrists, ophthalmologists and patients. They 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. They noted, however, that trust and relationship building between optometrists and ophthalmologists needed to be further developed.

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.