Dr Ben Ashby, Specsavers Australia & New Zealand’s (ANZ) Head of Optometry, has revealed data on the volume of patients already impacted by the collaborative approach to eye care enabled by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) established between Specsavers and RANZCO in 2016.

The data was presented at the Optometry Workshop held in Perth on 28 October 2017 as part of RANZCO’s 49th Annual Scientific Congress. The workshop, which was attended by ophthalmologists and optometrists from across the industry, involved a series of lectures relating to evidence-based guidelines and research on referral.

The presentations were delivered by a panel of ophthalmology experts chaired by RANZCO Immediate Past President Dr Brad Horsburgh, with Dr Ashby joining them as the only optometrist invited to speak at the national workshop.

Dr Ashby explained how the MoU between Specsavers and RANZCO had facilitated the regularly cited need for optometrists and ophthalmologists to work together to efficiently care for an ageing population with an associated increasing burden of chronic ocular pathology.

As the largest provider of optometric eye care in Australia and New Zealand, and with standardised equipment and consistent and uniform training processes in place across its network, Specsavers is uniquely positioned to provide cost-effective screening of the population.

Specsavers and RANZCO are currently focusing on tracking the effectiveness of the RANZCO Referral Pathway for Glaucoma Management, with early results from the organisations’ related joint research project expected in 2018. However, data shared at the workshop indicated that 25,000 glaucoma referrals per year were already being influenced by the RANZCO-Specsavers collaboration. In combination with the ongoing roll-out of OCTs across Australian and New Zealand Specsavers stores, it is anticipated that this will continue to impact glaucoma detection rates across both countries.

The referral guidelines agreed upon between RANZCO and Specsavers on diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration have created a clear delineation of responsibilities between optometry and ophthalmology, which, in turn, is building efficiencies into the healthcare system by supporting timely and appropriate referrals and reducing duplication of services.

The integration of the Oculo electronic referral platform into Specsavers stores has helped build consistency within the referral process, which has led to what is believed to be a world-first benchmarking project that will aggregate data from 135,000 professional communications.

In the next phase of joint research, RANZCO and Specsavers will investigate diabetic eye care. This is an important step, as more than 100 patients with diabetes are being referred by Specsavers for ophthalmology services per week, and over 500 a week are being co-managed with their GPs.

The Specsavers-RANZCO MoU and its research outputs will demonstrate to Government how collaboration between the two professions can improve patient care and help minimise strain on the national health budget. This model of eye care ultimately creates a sustainable foundation to support the growing demand for specialised ophthalmology services and will result in a measurable impact on avoidable blindness.