A selection of Victorian Specsavers stores have been enlisted by the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) for a pilot program that will provide feedback and training on the grading of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

To kick off the initiative, optometry partners and optometrists from the participating stores attended an information night in Melbourne on 16 October where they learned more about the latest research in AMD and how they could collaborate with ophthalmology to better care for patients with the disease. Presentations were delivered by Professor Robyn Guymer, CERA Deputy Director and Head of the Macular Research Unit (MRU), and Nicole Tindill, Data Manager in the MRU.

Prof Guymer, who is leading the pilot program, started off the evening with a comprehensive overview of the current state of AMD classification and research. She spoke about the Beckman Classification of AMD that would be used as a standard, providing case examples to demonstrate how the system could be used in optometric practice. Prof Guymer noted that the Beckman Classification is referenced in the RANZCO referral pathways and emphasised that consistent approaches to assessment and management are critical for optimal patient outcomes.

She shared details about the research trials that are currently underway for patients with geographic atrophy, stressing the importance of finding new interventions for people with non-neovascular forms of AMD, for whom there are currently no treatments available.

Attendees also learned how OCT could be used to understand more about the risk of development of, or progression to, geographic atrophy and late AMD. Prof Guymer used several OCT scans to provide examples of the kinds of clinical signs to look out for, such as reticular pseudodrusen, which can increase the risk of progression to late AMD if present in the intermediate stage.

Introducing the pilot program, Prof Guymer detailed the impact that multi-modal imaging techniques such as OCT had in furthering AMD research, adding that CERA aimed to establish an AMD clinical trial registry for researchers, clinicians and patients. As novel treatments for AMD are now targeting “non-wet” AMD, Prof Guymer explained that it would be crucial for ophthalmology to work closely with optometry to identify AMD cases, as these “non-wet” AMD patients were in the community and would primarily be seeking eye care from optometrists.

The next phase of the trial will aim to put processes in place to allow identified AMD cases to be added to a registry of patients potentially interested in participating in clinical trials. Prof Guymer said the pilot program being conducted with Specsavers would help inform that project by providing information on how optometrists classify AMD.

Over the course of the program, the participating Specsavers stores will have an opportunity to send their classification of OCT scans to CERA via Oculo. Nicole provided the attendees with an overview of how the flow of information to and from Specsavers would occur via the electronic referral platform. Prof Guymer explained that she would then provide the optometrists with feedback on how closely their classification and clinical assessment agrees with ophthalmology. This is designed to provide the optometrists with a greater understanding of how to apply the Beckman Classification of AMD, with a view to improving the consistency of their approach in assessing and managing AMD patients. The program will also evaluate the impact that the training, collaboration and feedback has on patient outcomes.

Ultimately, the program aims to improve the way in which optometry, ophthalmology and other health professionals collaborate in the treatment and management of patients with AMD, while also providing opportunities for further research into AMD treatment.