RANZCO and Specsavers establish historic collaboration

RANZCO, with input from both ophthalmologists and optometrists, is developing a series of eye-care referral guidelines, initially providing guidelines for referral of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and aged macular degeneration (AMD) over the next few weeks.On 3 August, both parties signed a non-binding morandum of understanding (MoU) with a two-year pilot period. The first discussions between RANZCO and Specsavers that resulted in the MoU took place in March this year.Under the MoU, RANZCO is developing the series of eye-care referral guidelines, while Specsavers is committed to implenting the guidelines across its practices.The first of the referral guidelines, the RANZCO Referral Pathway for Glaucoma Managent, was launched on 3 August and made available to all optometrists and GPs across Australia and New Zealand.Both organisations are committed to all optometrists being involved in the guideline pilots, not just Specsavers optometrists. According to the two parties, the arrangent is about superior patient outcomes and is not focused on profession-code or brand-based loyalties. It is only about developing efficient, evidence-based referral pathways and co-managent guidelines for the benefit of patients.The referral guidelines do not favour, and are not dependent upon, any particular practice referral syst or methodology. They simply provide a resource that lays out a suggested referral pathway if certain signs and/or symptoms are identified. The aim is to ensure patients receive the best care possible in the most appropriate timeframe and from the appropriate healthcare provider.On the day of the MoU signing, RANZCO president Dr Bradley Horsburgh said, “Ophthalmologists and optometrists, along with GPs, are committed to helping improve people’s vision. We are all part of the eye healthcare syst and it’s important we deliver that as smoothly and effectively as possible for patients.“In addition, with a clear guide for referrals, we can ensure that the increasingly limited funding and resources for healthcare, both public and private, is used in the most efficient manner.”Industry feedback wantedThe referral guidelines are based on peer-reviewed publications about best practice in relation to referrals for symptoms and disease areas.Both RANZCO and Specsavers are seeking feedback from all ophthalmologists, optometrists and GPs who use the referral guidelines to feed into a review of their effectiveness and usability and their impact on outcomes for patients.As part of this assessment process, Specsavers will run the two-year pilot program to efficiently gather significant metrics and data. RANZCO will then feed this information into the assessment and review the guidelines. Both parties will look to share resultant data with healthcare funding and managent bodies to shed greater light on eye health and broader healthcare outputs.Mr Peter Larsen, Specsavers’ optometry director, said, “With a growing and ageing population in both Australia and New Zealand we have a duty to ensure that there is ingrained collaboration between optometry and ophthalmology.“It is not enough to say we work together, we actually need to set ourselves specific areas of collaboration and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of that collaboration. The arrangent between Specsavers and RANZCO does just that, the goal being superior patient outcomes.”RANZCO will provide training sessions on the guidelines during its 48th Annual Scientific Congress in Melbourne in Novber. The sessions will be open to all optometrists and GPs.RANZCO will continue the leading role it already plays at Specsavers clinical events, which are open to all optometrists.On the day of the signing, Dr David Andrews, RANZCO’s chief executive officer, confirmed the purpose of the arrangent was to create efficient and effective pathways for patients.“Specsavers practices see thousands of patients every day and their input and feedback will allow RANZCO – for the first time – to test fully and develop the guidelines, with consolidated data being drawn directly from the pilot,” he said.When asked why RANZCO had not opted to do this via Optometry Australia and the New Zealand Association of Optometrists, Dr Andrews responded, “Ultimately this pilot is about ophthalmologists working directly with optometrists. Specsavers has almost 1,000 optometrists working in its practices, who are using largely the same systs to manage their patient pathways, so the relationship makes clear sense.“Together, RANZCO and Specsavers can put the guidelines in place that will relate to all Specsavers patients – currently some 40 per cent of all patients undergoing eye examinations by optometrists in Australia and New Zealand. The data that comes out of that collaboration is likely to be very powerful, especially with the healthcare funding departments looking for evidence-based care models.“We are confident it will mean earlier detection of conditions such as glaucoma, which will benefit patients – the ultimate aim of the program.”The agreent is not exclusive or binding. All optometrists, GPs and ophthalmologists will able to engage in the guideline pilots – both Specsavers and RANZCO expressly welcome that.RANZCO and Specsavers will work closely on making sure that the results of the pilots – especially using Specsavers’ own collated data across many thousands of case histories – can be used and shared with healthcare managent and funding bodies to donstrate the public benefit value of both primary and secondary eye-care providers.RANZCO and Specsavers decided to focus initially on glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and AMD as these are the main areas of interaction between ophthalmologists, optometrists and GPs in which there can be ambiguity about which referral path to take. However, additional referral pathways may also be developed in due course if it becomes clear they are required.Referral Pathway for Glaucoma Managent{{image2-a:c-w:550}}

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