Annie Gibbins is the Chief Executive Officer of Glaucoma Australia. Her academic and professional accolades over the past 30 years include growing and transforming health and education businesses across Australasia, a Master of Education, a Bachelor of Nursing, Lean Six Sigma, and MAICD.
Here, she shares the insights and data on the impact of support from Glaucoma Australia on patient health outcomes and explains why optometrists should be referring all patients to the patient support group.
Preventable blindness is a tragedy which is not, and should not, ever become acceptable. With this at the forefront of its philosophy, Glaucoma Australia is directing glaucoma suspects and patients on a sight-saving journey with far-reaching positive consequences.
When the Glaucoma Australia Referral Response Pathway was established two and a half years ago, data collected from newly diagnosed patients revealed that while 50% of patients contacted had made an appointment with an ophthalmologist and 11% were on a waiting list, 39% stated they would not be acting on their referral. Of the 61% who stated they intended to attend their initial appointment, 37% did not attend. Indeed, it became apparent that for a variety of reasons, which are now being captured, an extremely high proportion of people hold off either making or attending this extremely important appointment.
When optometrists refer patients to Glaucoma Australia at this initial stage, the patients are offered free education and support by an orthoptist educator which often results in a changed decision to get their diagnosis confirmed and managed before their sight is compromised or their quality of life impacted. In fact, a recent survey of 899 patients who had been supported by the organisation’s services revealed that after receiving the support, 92% stated they frequently/always attended their glaucoma appointments and 87% stated they had not missed their prescribed glaucoma treatment in the previous two weeks.
Consistently promoting the family history risk is an area of great opportunity to improve early detection rates. The strongly genetic nature of glaucoma is well known, with first-degree relatives 23–56% more likely to inherit the disease, meaning 34,500–84,000 of the currently undiagnosed 150,000 Australians with glaucoma also have a relative with glaucoma1.
Glaucoma Australia encourages those with glaucoma to tell their first-degree relatives to get tested for glaucoma from the earlier age of 40 due to their genetic predisposition through education, support and campaigning. The Glaucoma Australia survey showed that after receiving this, 92% had told their family members to get tested by an optometrist.
While the challenges of 2020 were significant for all, Glaucoma Australia’s detect-and-defeat strategy continued to show strong impact as it supported 22,000 patients.
To support the needs of our patients during COVID and beyond, patient communications have been tailored to specific stages of the glaucoma journey and their corresponding needs. We have launched a new, patient friendly website that integrates with this patient support journey and made support groups available online, extending their reach. Additionally, we are using social media to enhance our message.
To provide feedback to Glaucoma Australia on patient referrals, we invite you to answer a couple of quick questions via this survey.
1 Targeting at Risk Relatives of Glaucoma patients for Early Diagnosis and Treatment (TARRGET)