A report published by the College of Optometrists is 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.
Released on Monday (February 4), the report highlights how improving data collection can lead to better communication between practices, GPs, hospitals and local authorities. It follow’s Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s recent call for a move towards a ‘paperless NHS’ by 2015.
David Parkins, vice president for the College of Optometrists and chair of the data project steering group, said: “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.”
An estimated one million patients are currently referred by optometrists to their GP or hospital eye care service annually. However, a paper-based system is primarily used for referral, despite postal delays and a problem with the quality of images from retinal cameras or ocular coherence tomography occurring.
The report recommends that standardised electronic and digital systems are needed to bring consistency to data capture and measurement.
Mr Parkins added: “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’ can be viewed atwww.college-optometrists.org/public-affairs