A truly holistic approach to patient care ensures that all resources available are directed purposefully towards improving outcomes.
With high quality patient support groups available in Australia and New Zealand, this relatively under-utilised sector of the industry has the potential to dramatically enhance long-term care for patients with eye conditions.
These groups have the ability, expertise and resources to fortify patient management plans in-between assessments, combatting the most likely points at which a patient may drop out of treatment or deviate from their prescribed care plan.
Regardless of how well resourced and structured a care pathway is, it is virtually impossible to ensure that every patient receives an optimised health outcome whilst simultaneously feeling completely cared for, knowledgeable about their condition, comfortable with their treatment regime or management plan and satisfied with their experience.
This is primarily because no sustainable model for eyecare permits a practitioner unlimited time with a patient.
The role of patient support groups extends far beyond the clinic, eye condition or treatment modality. Using a solid framework for continued patient communication, support groups address the sometimes subtle preferences that patients have for their health care to ensure they feel cared for and engaged in their eye health in-between visits to their healthcare providers.
Patient support groups understand the cultural, financial, psychological, emotional and physical needs of patients. They can also reinforce clinical advice and provide continuing education and services that enhance and support patient compliance. This ensures far greater success and satisfaction than if a patient was left alone.
Across Australia and New Zealand, patient support groups provide a wide variety of services that are beneficial for patients, whether they have just been diagnosed or have an advanced stage of disease. These organisations exist for all major eye health conditions including glaucoma, diabetes and macular disease, however both patients and optometrists have limited exposure and understanding of the services and support they offer.
Some of the barriers that currently exist to integrating these health services into current patient management plans include:
Lack of awareness
Optometrist and patient reticence due to lack of understanding
No standardised referral process with registration
Uptake is reliant on patient self-registration
Difficulty with initial patient contact after registration