As part of the collaboration that was announced last year, Specsavers Australia and New Zealand and RANZCO have launched what is believed to be a world-first research project designed to enhance collaborative care by improving the quality of referrals.

The project, which is being led by Sydney Eye Hospital Neuro-ophthalmologist Dr Mitchell Lawlor, aims to determine how the guidelines set out in the RANZCO Referral Pathway for Glaucoma Management are being used in practice.

“Following the introduction of these guidelines in 2016, there is a need to assess how they are being implemented in the care of patients,” said Specsavers Optometry Development Consultant Jeena Tan. “By measuring this and providing feedback to referring optometrists, this research will indicate how the guidelines are being applied, train participants on interpretation of the guidelines, and provide evidence to improve collaborative care of glaucoma patients.”

In addition to Dr Lawlor, NSW ophthalmologists Assoc Profs Ivan Goldberg, Andrew White and John Grigg are taking part in the project. Specsavers optometrists who refer to any of the four ophthalmologists are eligible to participate in the research.

Over the course of the research period, referrals for glaucoma patients submitted by project participants will be logged in a registry supplied by the Save Sight Institute. The registry software will assess the quality of the referral against defined standards. Personalised, individual reports will be sent back to participating optometrists, advising which aspects of the referral were or were not present, and what the final diagnosis was as determined by the ophthalmologist.

“The data generated through the registry aims to further improve both referral quality and assessment of glaucoma patients through explicit identification of a minimum required data set for a comprehensive glaucoma examination,” Jeena explained.

Launch event

The project was launched in Sydney

The RANZCO research project officially launched on 11 July 2017 in Sydney at an event attended by the first Specsavers optometrists to sign up to participate. Also present at the event were RANZCO CEO Dr David Andrews, General Manager Policy and Programs Gerhard Schlenther, and General Manager – Communications Emma Carr. Specsavers was represented by Jeena Tan as well as Optometry Director Peter Larsen and Head of Optometry Dr Ben Ashby.

During the event, Dr Lawlor delivered a presentation on the registry module and addressed any questions the optometrists had about the research project.

Specsavers Miranda East Optometry Partner Linley Reidy, who attended the event, commented, “We’re constantly striving to improve the accuracy of our diagnosis. It will be good to receive feedback on our referrals so we can ensure we are speaking the ophthalmologist’s language. This project should ultimately benefit patients, saving them time and money through appropriate referral.”

Specsavers Castle Hill Optometrist Timothy Ho added, “I think this initiative presents a great opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of current best practice in the management of glaucoma and how it is reflected in optometry in today’s climate. Data drawn from the audit process will hopefully improve our understanding of any correlation between the content and accuracy of optometry referrals and patient outcome.”

In August 2016, RANZCO and Specsavers Australia and New Zealand established a historic collaboration with the aim of providing more effective and efficient patient care pathways and improving eye health outcomes for people across Australia and New Zealand.

The announcement included the launch of the RANZCO Referral Pathway for Glaucoma Management, which was later followed by similar pathways for age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The resources lay out a suggested referral pathway for optometrists if certain signs or symptoms are identified.

(L-R) Dr Mitchell Lawlor from the Sydney Eye Hospital; Emma Carr, Gerhard Schlenther and Dr David Andrews from RANZCO; and Peter Larsen, Jeena Tan and Dr Ben Asbhy from Specsavers