Specsavers has thrown its support behind government plans to develop nationally consistent strategies, tools and resources to improve patient care.

Late last year, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care called for submissions in relation to its consultation paper on patient safety and quality improvement in primary care settings. The Commission works in partnership with the Australian Government, state and territory governments, and the private and primary care sectors to lead and coordinate national improvements in the safety and quality of health care.

“Although most health care in Australia is associated with good clinical outcomes, patients do not always receive the care that is recommended, and adverse events continue to occur across the Australian healthcare system,” the Commission’s consultation paper stated. “A range of programs and projects have been implemented in primary care services to improve the safety and quality of care for patients. However, they are not currently coordinated or consistent across primary care services in Australia.”

Through the public consultation process, the Commission sought feedback on two planned improvement strategies – the development of nationally consistent primary care safety and quality health service standards where a safety and quality framework does not currently exist; and a review of the Commission’s practice-level indicators for primary care to support service improvement through performance monitoring and benchmarking. The Commission also sought to identify additional strategies that could be implemented to support patient safety and quality improvement in the sector.

Peter Larsen, Optometry Director for Specsavers Australia & New Zealand, said Specsavers fully supported the Commission’s work in introducing consistent strategies and initiatives at a national level.

“This is a long overdue and much needed element in Australia’s healthcare system, and Specsavers is willing to share our strategies and learnings in implementing a range of quality systems to support better patient outcomes,” he said.

Some of the systems and initiatives Specsavers has already introduced to improve quality of care, consistency and safety for its patients include:

  • Benchmark reports for its optometrists
  • Research collaboration on inter-professional care with RANZCO
  • Measurement and standardisation of referral pathways
  • CPD provision and monitoring
  • Ophthalmic and software systems-based technology such as OCT and Oculo
  • Training programs, including optic nerve assessment tools.

“In primary care professions, we believe there needs to be close collaboration with relevant secondary care professionals,” Peter said. “In our case, that means close and very practical collaboration with ophthalmology’s representative body and, on a subsequently agreed basis, with individual ophthalmologists themselves. Management and co-management formulae need to be agreed upon, worked through and tested, and be open to mutually agreed continuous improvement timelines and processes.”

Peter added that professional and clinical benchmarking was crucial to demonstrating commitment to safety and quality issues, and providing visibility to quality and consistency of care across the population.

“As the largest provider of optometric eye health services for Australia, Specsavers has access to a unique national dataset that could form initial benchmarking for the industry,” he stated. “We believe that joint government / primary care benchmark reporting should be undertaken to demonstrate improved patient outcomes and public health efficiencies. This is achievable and would provide Australians with a direct view of quality and safety in optometry and other primary care sectors.”

In collaboration with primary care stakeholders, the Commission intends to develop outputs from the consultation process to enhance and add value to existing programs, address identified patient safety and quality improvement gaps, and to work in areas that require a national focus.