The Oculo platform, developed in Australia, facilitates instant and secure communication between optometrists, ophthalmologists and general practitioners, to enhance collaborative patient care and outcomes. The platform centralises patient medical histories, ocular examination results and clinical imaging, enabling them to be shared between practitioners at the click of a button.
Just three years after launching in Australia, Oculo connects about 65% of the country’s optometry services and over 80% of ophthalmologists. One year post-launch in New Zealand, the Oculo platform connects 60% of the country’s eye care professionals. Now Oculo is expanding to connect eye care in the United States. mivision caught up with Dr Kate Taylor, CEO of Oculo, to find out more.
Q. How is Oculo contributing to the way health professionals deliver patient care?
In essence, Oculo makes sure the right clinical information gets to the right health care professional at the right time. We reduce reliance on outdated, low-fidelity forms of communication like faxes and snail mail, and we bridge the gaps and overlaps in care that occur when key information is trapped in the data siloed in practices’ electronic record systems.
The Oculo platform creates a secure and accessible shared record of correspondence – including referrals, letters, and images. Clinicians can also exchange feedback about referrals and care plans, creating the opportunity for more accurate diagnosis and referral patterns over time. All in all, we move from letters as snapshots to longitudinal, collaborative and integrated patient care.
By facilitating this direct and instant feedback we are enabling more accurate diagnosis and referral patterns
On a practical level, how does this help patients?
A great example was cited by OPSM optometrist Bansri Shah in mivision in August 2019. She described how using Oculo expedited getting an urgent ophthalmic review for a patient. The clinical information transmitted meant the ophthalmologist could make a timely assessment and treatment plan, and the patient’s GP was kept informed as well. All members of the patient’s care team had instant access to the patient’s outcome without the delay of waiting for a postconsultation report to arrive by mail.
Another way Oculo helps patients is by connecting them with relevant patient support groups, including Glaucoma Australia, the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) and KeepSight for diabetic retinopathy. With just a click, optometrists and ophthalmologists can connect patients to the community-based education and support programmes that help people better manage their conditions with the goal of reducing avoidable vision loss and associated social challenges.
So given communication through Oculo improves patient care, how else can it benefit the health system as a whole?
The Oculo platform has the ability to track referral patterns and trends that can be used in two key ways. From a business perspective, practice managers can benchmark their referral patterns to gain oversight to patterns of over and underreferring. Using these data, practices can identify opportunities for staff training and development for continuous quality improvement to ensure they are providing the best possible patient care.
At a broader level, Oculo can identify community-wide health trends via referral patterns. These data can be used to help healthcare decision makers allocate funding where it is needed most, to ensure health systems are equipped to address the care needs of their communities.
Have there been any challenges in getting Oculo off the ground?
One of our biggest challenges has also been one of our biggest benefits and that is our association with Specsavers. Specsavers optometrists have been wonderful users of our platform and have provided great feedback that has helped us refine the functionality and make our user experience better. They have also been visionary in how to deidentify and aggregate their own data to examine and improve their quality of care.
Unfortunately, there have been some deeply held misconceptions about our relationship with Specsavers, for example, that they somehow own Oculo, or have access to other people’s patients, which would be illegal. We’re pleased to be working with OPSM to roll out Oculo to its Australian stores by the end of the year, and hear how our platform is enabling their optometrists to deliver enhanced multidisciplinary collaboration to their patients. The clinical value of Oculo is something that has been long understood by independent optometrists, and we’re thrilled to be working with them to enhance the care they deliver to their patients. Supporting better outcomes for patients is central to everything we do at Oculo.
Another critical challenge is the enormous amount of time and effort we spend on data security and patient privacy – literally every day. This is evident in our privacy and data security standards maturing to reach HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliance, and soon we will attain the even more stringent standard for the UK and EU (GDPR). We work really hard to inculcate privacy and security into the DNA of our team and the company.
Looking ahead, our next major challenge is to adapt Oculo to other settings. The feedback we’ve had has been clear that the need for better connection between health care professionals is a universal challenge. While the health system in the US is very different, the communication gap is the same. We are looking forward to improving the Oculo experience for all of our users as we learn along the way.
What changes have been made to the Oculo platform in recent months?
We are an agile tech company, which means our software engineers are consistently working on, and releasing, enhancements to the platform. It also means we are able to respond quickly to feedback from our customers and implement changes that enhance their ability to deliver better care to their patients.
Our team has made some big enhancements to the Oculo platform. In the last year alone, we have partnered with Glaucoma Australia and MDFA, and we were named as the technology partner for KeepSight, all of which provide community support services to better manage eye disease. The Oculo platform now gives practitioners the ability to connect patients into these services in one simple click. Additionally, we have announced partnerships with Topcon Healthcare Solution’s (THS) Harmony software and plano, an app targeting myopia in children, to help connect technology that shares our vision of better connected patient care.
What can we look forward to in the near future?
We are always working towards a more seamless, better connected experience. One exciting enhancement is our integration with the Topcon clinical image management solution, Harmony. Integrating the Oculo platform with Harmony means clinicians can connect across the devices in their practices, regardless of manufacturer, and pull patient images together in a smart timeline view.
From Harmony, you can select all relevant images and send them straight to Oculo to include in your correspondence. The exciting partnership streamlines the flow of information in and out of a clinician’s practice and eliminates manual processes by keeping everything securely in the cloud.
What is involved in signing up to Oculo?
Oculo is a web-based application, so you don’t need any new technology or hardware to get started. This also means it can be accessed from any location, as long as you have an internet connection.
The platform provides access for different users within a practice, so that clinical and support staff can be granted access to the platform based on their role.
To get optometrists and ophthalmologists started, we offer a 30-day obligation free trial, and that includes access to free over the phone training, and phone and email support.
For more information, visit oculo.com.au or oculo.co.nz