Collaborative care is at its best when communication between health professionals is efficient, timely, consistent and measurable. Without a centralised electronic platform for secure, two-way communication between optometrists and health professionals who surround and support the patient on their journey, optimal patient care cannot be achieved.
In 2016, Specsavers invested in the Oculo electronic referral platform, recognising that a paper-based referral process was limiting optometrists’ capacity to engage effectively in collaborative care.
Moreover, paper-based referrals provided no way of keeping the patient connected with their eyecare sustainably across the health care system, especially across multiple providers and health care institutions.
Since then, the benefits of an electronic referral platform for patient care have been remarkable.
Optometrists now have the ability to view their patient’s clinical journey online. This in turn equips them to make more informed decisions based on patient history, previous interventions and treatment, while also being able to interact with other health professionals involved in their care.
Additionally, it enables systematic tracking of referrals so that optometrists have full visibility over when the referral is received and acted upon, every time.
Electronic communication also facilitates enhanced efficiency, security and continuity of care with the patient being notified at each contact point between health providers and kept up to date with alterations or changes to management plans as they may arise.
Above all, it opens the lines of communication for two-way conversations between referrer and referee. Most Specsavers practices in Australia now use the Oculo platform consistently as the mainstay of communication with ophthalmologists and GPs.
Specsavers, Oculo and other industry partners have worked together to listen to the needs of optometrists in primary practice and ensure referral templates are aligned with RANZCO Referral Pathways and industry patient care pathways.
Working with ophthalmology
Oculo was built and has evolved based on ophthalmological feedback. This has led to collaboration between optometry and ophthalmology to develop a simple but structured feedback loop for major eye disease referrals.
The feedback loop enables optometrists to classify the eye disease and severity at the time of referral with the feedback feature allowing ophthalmologists to validate the appropriateness of the referral or correct the diagnosis with the single press of a button.
This is the most useful form of training and feedback an optometrist can receive, relating specifically to their own assessment and referral process.
The inclusion of this feature has proven pivotal in providing insight into Specsavers’ detection rates of new glaucoma patients and confirmation of the appropriateness of glaucoma and diabetes referrals.
Working with GPs
Using a similar framework to ophthalmology referrals, Oculo also enables electronic communication with GPs.
Most eye reports sent to GPs are in relation to the co-management for patients with diabetes, reflecting how technology, when used in the right way, can support optometrists to efficiently communicate with other care providers.
Working with patient support groups
Electronic referrals also facilitate significantly enhanced engagement with patient support groups who play an integral role in maintaining an ongoing dialogue and care structure for patients who have been diagnosed with an eye condition.
Specsavers has worked to electronically connect patients with glaucoma, diabetes and macular disease to Glaucoma Australia, Diabetes Australia and Macular Degeneration Foundation Australia respectively. This has set a new precedent for ensuring that support groups are brought into the fold early.