By Sarah Davies
Policy and Advocacy Manager
In July 2018, Optometry Australia applauded the Australian Government’s pledge to provide funding for a new eye health screening program for Australians with diabetes.
This program, known as KeepSight, is a once-in-a generation opportunity to dramatically increase rates of eye examinations and reduce rates of diabetes-related vision loss and blindness in Australia through the implementation of a systematic, wide-scale recall and reminder system.
During Optometry Australia’s Diabetes and your role in eye care webcast on Wednesday 19 September 2018, Kate Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Oculo, presented on the KeepSight initiative. The following provides further information on the program.
Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in working age Australians and all people with diabetes are at risk of vision loss and blindness. Currently 100,000 people are living with vision threatening diabetic retinopathy, with this number expected to double by 2030. Further, this problem is growing. There are also many other diabetes-related eye diseases – including diabetic macular oedema, cataract, and glaucoma – which have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness. However, with timely detection and treatment, 98 per cent of vision loss from diabetes is preventable.
Australia has a world-leading health system with highly committed, well trained eye care providers delivering world class health care. Yet half of people with diabetes in Australia don’t have regular eye examinations, putting their sight at unnecessary risk.
Led by Diabetes Australia and Vision 2020 Australia, KeepSight will engage with 1.27 million people with diabetes registered on the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) to encourage regular eye examinations. This will drive thousands of people to Australia’s optometrists and ophthalmologists, enabling them to deliver thousands of extra comprehensive eye examinations.
There are three key components to the program:
- The establishment of an eye examination alert and reminder system via the NDSS
- Creation and expansion of a digital eye care provider platform with data linkages to the NDSS
- Delivery of regular comprehensive eye examinations using existing networks of eye care and primary care providers.
To achieve this:
- Diabetes Australia will build a system to send alerts and reminders to people with diabetes registered on the NDSS to get their eyes examined.
- Oculo will build a digital platform so eye care providers can upload the results of eye examinations into KeepSight.
- Diabetes Australia will design and implement a consumer mobilisation campaign.
- Vision 2020 Australia will work with the eye care sector to mobilise professional engagement and foster collaboration.
Under the new screening program, a nationally coordinated recall and reminder system will engage the 1.27 million Australians currently living with diabetes and registered on the NDSS. It will include targeted messaging – via emails, SMS, and social media – and aim to encourage them to book an appointment with an eye care provider of their choice.
It will be one of the largest health recall and reminder systems ever implemented in Australia, and coupled with a largescale marketing push to the general public, will aim to significantly increase the number of people with diabetes undergoing regular comprehensive eye examinations, and reduce the number of people who unnecessarily lose their sight as a result of diabetes.
What do eye care providers, including optometrists, need to do?
Eye care providers are critical to the success of this program – optometrists and ophthalmologists will be asked to register as providers with the KeepSight program, through a freely available website and app platform specifically created for the initiative.
This platform will be built and housed by Oculo, and any health professional conducting eye examinations for people with diabetes will be able to create an account and register their patients.
By registering to be involved, it will be easier for people with diabetes, registered on the NDSS without a current eye care provider, to identify a service to use.
The KeepSight program is not intended to disrupt existing arrangements between eye care providers and their patients, but supplement these with an additional recall and reminder system via the NDSS. Further, public facing materials will note that if a person already has arrangements for periodic reviews with an existing eye care provider in place, these should continue.
Once registered, and with the patient’s consent, eye care providers will be encouraged to upload the patient’s results and recall period onto the KeepSight secure webportal, where it will be securely transmitted to the NDSS.
This information will be used by the NDSS to trigger the recall and reminder notices and encourage people to have future eye examinations within the timeframe recommended by their eye care provider. This will supplement the existing recall and reminder systems within eye care practices.
Optometrists who already use Oculo will not need to register with the public portal. There will be a streamlined process within the existing Oculo software to send information to KeepSight.
More information regarding how to register will be available in coming months.
Who is involved?
The KeepSight program is led by Diabetes Australia and Vision 2020 Australia, with technology provider, Oculo and funding partner, Specsavers.
Diabetes Australia will build a system to send alerts and reminders to people with diabetes registered on the NDSS to get their eyes examined and will also design and implement a consumer mobilisation campaign. Vision 2020 Australia will work with the eye care sector to mobilise professional engagement and foster collaboration.
The Australian Government has provided Diabetes Australia with an initial grant of $1 million for year one, matched by a commitment from Specsavers of $1 million a year for five years; while Oculo is the initiative’s technology provider.
Have more questions? More FAQs and answers are available here, or contact the Optometry Australia Policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.