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By Rhiannon Riches
Assistant Editor

 

Optometrists are a vital link in a new approach to connect glaucoma patients to Glaucoma Australia services.

Optometry Australia and Glaucoma Australia are working together, as part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in October last year, to set up a chain of communication to help every patient with glaucoma receive support and information from Glaucoma Australia.

Optometry Australia has agreed to distribute to any optometrist Glaucoma Australia’s patient referral brochure, which seeks the patient’s consent for Glaucoma Australia to contact the patient directly by telephone, to provide free education and follow-up information for them and their family.

The brochures will be distributed through the Optometry Australia Online Store and there will be no charge for the brochures, which are in packs of 25. The offer is available to all optometrists, regardless of whether they are members of Optometry Australia.

A maximum of 25 brochures can be dispatched with any order placed with the Online Store.

  • If the order includes other resources that cost $25 or more, there will be no additional postage charge for the brochures.
  • If the order includes other resources that cost less than $25, there will be an additional charge of $5.50 for postage.
  • If only the Glaucoma Australia brochures are ordered, there will be a charge of $5.50 for postage.

Meegan McLeod, a Glaucoma Australia educator, said the patient referral brochure had been developed about a year ago and initially supplied to ophthalmologists.

It was then distributed to 171 Eyecare Plus optometrists. Among them was David West, from Eyecare Plus in Cranbourne, who has been using the patient referral brochure for about four months.

‘I have them in reception and in the consulting rooms. Every patient has been positive in their response to the brochure,’ Mr West said.

‘I am keen to support this kind of initiative, as the more information each patient has, the better. Patients chatting to Glaucoma Australia might throw up new ideas or treatment options, or discussion about the hereditary aspect of the disease, which is a big concern.’

Mr West has not yet received comment from the patients to whom he gave the referral brochure, as he has been providing them for only a few months.

Glaucoma Australia will measure the number of patient referral brochures it receives from optometrists, and in consultation with Optometry Australia will assess whether the process is working, with a view to increasing or decreasing distribution.

Ms McLeod said Glaucoma Australia wanted the brochure to be handed to the patient during the consultation, and to be filled out by the patient or the optometrist on the patient’s behalf.

The optometrist detaches part of the brochure with the patient’s contact details, and returns it to Glaucoma Australia, reply paid so there is no cost to the optometrist. The patient keeps the remainder of the brochure.

Each optometrist stamps the tear-off section to identify themselves as the referring health professional, so Glaucoma Australia can track which optometrist referred which patient.

Ms McLeod then phones each patient and explains that she is calling from Glaucoma Australia following their visit to their optometrist, and will send them information about glaucoma in the mail.

‘Patients see it as an added service that their optometrist is doing for them,’ Ms McLeod said.

Given the hereditary nature of the disease, patients also receive from Glaucoma Australia resources to hand to family members.

‘This is a direct call to action for relatives of each patient to go and have their eyes checked. It creates a chain reaction. Family members then visit their optometrist. It’s a win-win,’ Ms McLeod said.

‘A lot of patients have questions that they don’t ask the optometrist, which we can help answer. They may be considering a procedure in the future, and we can send them information about that procedure,’ she said. ‘We’re helping that conversation.’

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