JulEye – the month long annual campaign that this year aims to raise public awareness of the need to avoid preventable eye injuries – is an opportune time to reflect on the importance of collaborative care, says ophthalmologist A/Prof Tim Roberts.
A/Prof Roberts, who is Clinical Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Sydney and Medical Director with Vision Eye Institute, was previously RANZCO NSW QEC Chair and a member of RANZCO NSW State Committee. He says managing the eye health of all Australians and New Zealanders requires a team effort.
“Optometrists, orthoptists, ophthalmologists and general practitioners all have essential, complementary skills and knowledge. Increasingly we see the benefits that come from utilising all of these areas of expertise to manage patients – ocular infections and diseases are quickly detected and referred for diagnosis so that treatment plans can be put in place and collaboratively monitored,” said A/Prof Roberts.
With collaborative care protocols in place, patients benefit by receiving accessible, high quality eye care and timely follow-up, which reduces the risk of adverse consequences of chronic diseases. However this is only part of the story.
“As well as working together to detect and manage patients with ocular disease we need to collaborate to raise awareness of the need for regular eye checks in the first place,” says A/Prof Roberts.
As well as working together to detect and manage patients with ocular disease we need to collaborate to raise awareness of the need for regular eye checks
“Focus groups conducted reveal that while the public is greatly concerned about losing their vision, they do not proactively set out to have regular eye checks.
“Having an eye examination is not top of mind as it is, for example, for bowel or breast screening, or a prostate check. We need to work together to change that through effective messaging and reminders. Those with a family history of eye disease, with high blood pressure, diabetes, or vascular problems, for example, need to have their eyes checked regularly”
“Optometrists have many opportunities to reinforce key messages about proactive eye screenings, as many Australians and New Zealanders see their optometrist each year for an eye examination and discussion of spectacle needs. Optometrists are well trained to detect emerging eye diseases and monitor eye health and, when necessary, refer to an ophthalmologist,” said A/Prof Roberts.
“Community communication is vital. The earlier an eye disease is picked up and referred to an ophthalmologist, the sooner we can develop a treatment plan in concert with the patient’s optometrist, GP or other healthcare provider(s), and the more positive the outcome is likely to be,” he said. “Ocular disease that is left untreated can lead to permanent vision impairment or blindness.”
JulEYE is organised each year by RANZCO’s charitable arm, Australian & New Zealand Eye Foundation (ANZEF).
The campaign has three core aims:
- To raise community awareness of eye health issues;
- To raise funding for research projects into the causes and cures of vision impairment and blindness; and
- To support international development projects whose goals are aligned with those of ANZEF.
To find out more, visit RANZCO.