Telehealth system reduces unnecessary referrals

According to the team, a recent trial resulted in more than half of the patients initially categorised as requiring a referral not needing one.The cloud-based platform, developed in conjunction with New South Wales-based software developer Big Picture Medical, allows optometrists, general practitioners and ophthalmologists to securely communicate. Clinical and imaging data can be shared between practitioners, allowing ophthamologists to triage patients rotely.The study, recently published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, found that 52% of patients were unnecessary classified as needing a hospital referral.Additionally, the syst also allowed ophthalmologists to prioritise more urgent cases. As part of the study 14% of patients were reported as needing an urgent referral, and all referrals of neovascular age-related macular degeneration were correctly classified as urgent.Ms Dawn Sim, consultant ophthalmic surgeon and head of teledicine at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said the technology comes at a time when the UK is facing an increasing number of referrals, largely driven by the use of retinal imaging.“This platform reduces unnecessary ophthalmologist referrals within the NHS, which is critical as this can overburden the clinical service and increase the time for a patient to be seen and receive treatment,” Sim said.“With the progress being made in using machine learning to provide a diagnosis from eye imaging, it may be possible for artificial intelligence to be integrated into this referral platform in the future.”Dr Tom McKinnion, chief executive officer of Big Picture, said he was excited to partner with Moorfields.“Through our platform relationship, Big Picture will continue to deliver the right care to the right patient at the right time for the lowest cost across the entire patient journey.”