The College of Optometrists, the professional, scientific and examining body for optometry in the UK, has published a new report calling for a more efficient collection of good quality data relating to patients’ eye health, in a bid to improve local eye health services and reduce costs and delays.
The report follows Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s recent call for moves towards a ‘paperless NHS’ by 2015. It highlights how improving data collection can improve communication between optometry practices, GPs, hospitals and local health authorities, ensuring that communities benefit from efficient and joined up services.
David Parkins, Vice President for the College of Optometrists and Chair of the data project steering group, says: “Optometrists examine the eyes not only to detect defects in vision, but also to identify signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormality and problems with general health, such as diabetes. The report emphasises that by taking responsibility for recording all this information and sharing data, optometrists will have the tools necessary to convince commissioners that commissioning from optometrists is good value for money.”
Optometrists currently refer approximately one million patients a year to their GP or hospital eye service, but this is primarily done using an inefficient paper-based system. As well as being subject to postal delays, paper referrals do not allow good quality images from retinal cameras or ocular coherence tomography to be sent alongside the referral. Paper-based systems have also long been branded outmoded and cumbersome. Yet in optometry, the NHS mostly still relies on paper submissions for referrals and NHS-funded eye examinations.
The government believes a step change among health professionals is needed to ensure that all health and social care professionals understand that quality information is core to good quality care. The report recommends that standardised electronic and digital systems therefore need to be put in place to bring consistency to data capture and measurement.
David Parkins continued; “Good quality information is central to providing good quality, patient-centred eye care. Having more detailed information at your fingertips will help health professionals to better meet the eye health needs of local communities, and ultimately save time and resources.
“An improved electronic system for referrals would reduce the cost burden of eye care to the NHS, helping to eliminate unnecessary referral appointments in addition to duplicated tests. The technology is available to enable this, but the will from Government to integrate patient pathways in eye care fully is needed to implement this effectively.”
The Better data, better care: ophthalmic public health data report 2013 is available now here.
 Optics at a Glance 2011. Optical Confederation.
Source: College of Optometrists