Specsavers has donated thousands of dollars to Australia’s peak glaucoma patient support group to highlight World Glaucoma Week as Specsavers optometrists continue to detect and refer an increasing number of patients for glaucoma.

Shining a light on World Glaucoma Week, which took place from 10 to 16 March 2019, Australian Specsavers stores donated $10,000 to Glaucoma Australia, which provides support to glaucoma patients.

On a related note, in late February, Specsavers reached three significant milestones in its 380-store OCT rollout program, which is a cornerstone of the organisation’s ‘Transforming eye health’ mission to improve detection of glaucoma and other eye diseases.

In Australia, Specsavers’ glaucoma detection rate has already doubled in comparison to national norms. As an example, over World Glaucoma Week, Australian Specsavers stores with OCT assessed 41,000 patients for glaucoma as part of the standard eye examination, which includes an OCT scan, pressure testing and retinal photography. Of these, more than 530 were referred for ophthalmological care. This referral rate of 1.3% is near the expected glaucoma population prevalence rate based on the Blue Mountains Eye Study.

“Our optical staff have performed more than one million OCT scans over the last 12 months, and this rate is set to increase as we continue our rollout of OCT technology across our Australian network,” commented Director of Optometry Professional Advancement Dr Ben Ashby, PhD. “In our Australian and New Zealand OCT stores, approximately 7,100 patients are being assessed for glaucoma and other sight-threatening eye diseases on an average day.”

Glaucoma Australia CEO Annie Gibbins said the impact Specsavers optometrists had made on glaucoma detection rates was remarkable. “We are now receiving more than 50 referrals from Specsavers optometrists each week, and this can be attributed to the systematic e-referral system they now employ in their stores, which ensures no referrals to us slip through the cracks,” she said. “These referrals, along with Specsavers’ generous World Glaucoma Week donation, will help Glaucoma Australia reach and support even more glaucoma patients, and continue to promote risk awareness as we work alongside optometry and ophthalmology to eliminate glaucoma blindness.”

A fundraising initiative for Glaucoma New Zealand is expected to take place later this year.

Rolling out OCT across the entire Specsavers Australia & New Zealand network and incorporating the advanced diagnostic technology into the standard eye examination means that by the end of 2019, every Specsavers Australia & New Zealand optometrist will have access to a higher level of information and detail on the state of their patient’s eyes than was previously available, and every Specsavers patient will have access to the technology at no additional cost.

The rollout, combined with utilisation of clinical benchmarking and application of the RANZCO referral pathways, has already resulted in a marked improvement on glaucoma detection rates, with Specsavers’ Australian OCT stores referring an additional 15,000 glaucoma patients to ophthalmology in the last 12 months compared with the previous year.

Dr Ashby stated, “The consistent use of OCT to perform structural assessment on every patient, combined with functional testing when clinically indicated, has resulted in a significant improvement in the number of glaucoma patients being detected and referred to ophthalmology. The doubling of the glaucoma detection rate in Australia is evidence of the measurable improvement our optometrists are having in uncovering the 50% undiagnosed glaucoma cohort that has remained elusive for so long.”