The RANZCO Referral Pathways have been vital not only in promoting collaborative care between optometry and ophthalmology, but in aligning and streamlining the transfer of care between primary and tertiary clinicians, and providing structure for shared-care arrangements.
RANZCO believes that close collaboration between ophthalmologists and optometrists is essential in delivering excellent eye care for our patients in the most effective and efficient way possible.” David Andrews, RANZCO CEO.
Agreed pathways for collaborative care are the cornerstone of quality and consistency in eye care.
Three pathways specific to the most common causes of avoidable blindness in Australia and New Zealand – diabetes, glaucoma, and macular degeneration – were developed in 2016, with updates since made to align with up-to-date industry benchmarks and agreed referral protocols for macular degeneration and glaucoma.
These industry-endorsed pathways play a significant role in enhancing consistency, quality and timeliness of care, as well as reinforcing the importance of communication in collaboration.
The pathways were built recognising that as specialists in the field of eyecare, ophthalmologists are best suited to providing direction on criterion for the referral of major eye conditions.
For optometrists, referral pathways are a valuable, easy-to-use resource that can be used to aid decision-making and formulate the most appropriate management plan for patients based on their signs and symptoms, classification and severity of their condition.
Since their launch, the RANZCO Referral Pathways have been embedded into routine optometry practice across Australia and New Zealand. This marks a turning point in overcoming some commonly reported barriers that stand in the way of streamlined collaborative care such as:
- unnecessary duplication of assessments by health care providers (also leading to increased financial burden on patients or the health care system);
- unclear or inconsistent referral criterion;
- too many or too few review appointments;
- poor inter-practitioner communication;
- poor patient communication and advice; and
- inconvenient and inaccessible services
The pathways better equip optometrists to employ a consistent approach to assessment, management and referral of patients. Optometry Benchmark Reporting collates referral data to relay back to individuals and optometry teams to further inform processes and consistency of practice.