Beyond boundaries: Nurturing collaborations for enhanced eye care

  • Little girl checking up her sight at ophthalmology center

Image by senivpetro on Freepik

In the expansive landscapes of regional South Australia, where the rugged beauty of the landscape meets the unique challenges of healthcare access, Community Eyecare Founder Ben Hamlyn has embarked on a mission to ensure that every individual, regardless of their location or circumstances, receives the highest quality eye care.

But Ben can’t do it alone. Community Eyecare’s evolution has been fuelled by a genuine passion for partnership, with patients, local health services (including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health organisations), the broader health system and specialist colleagues. Ben is committed to a more integrated, efficient and patient-centred approach to health delivery, shown to deliver better eye health outcomes for patients.

The dedicated team takes the time to develop a relationship with each patient and understand their unique needs, fostering an environment where personalized care flourishes. This enables tailored treatment plans and empowers patients to actively engage in decision-making. The result is better adherence, prevention, and early intervention, ultimately enhancing health outcomes through personalized care that addresses individual needs and preferences.

Building strong relationships with local health services, such as Pika Wiya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation and Nganampa Health Council are critical in ensuring the success of eye care initiatives. The collaboration is deeply embedded in the principles of cultural responsiveness and community engagement, acknowledging the unique healthcare needs of First Nations peoples. Without the invaluable contributions of the Aboriginal Health Workers, Doctors, Nurses, transport staff, and the administration and coordination teams, outreach services such as those delivered by Community Eyecare would not meet the needs of the communities they serve.

Similarly, engagement with other parts of the health system is critical to closing the loop in eye care service delivery. Ben recognises that vital support from the Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS) enables access to eye care. "Without support through the VOS it would be completely unviable to deliver services in remote locations, such as Coober Pedy or the APY lands, however these people still require – and deserve – access to health services. 

As costs to deliver these services increase, they are becoming less and less viable to continue without equivalent increase in VOS funding to match the change in costs of delivery”, he said.

Finally, collaborative care models between optometry and specialist colleagues, ophthalmologists, seek to reduce public ophthalmology wait times and enhance access by using optometrists to assess and manage patients who would otherwise be seen by ophthalmologists. Community Eyecare relies on close partnerships and collaboration with local ophthalmologists to ensure that patients who require referral to tertiary care receive the services they need in a timely and efficient way.

“Close partnerships with the VOS fundholder, Rural Doctors Workforce Agency, the sites we visit and the colleagues we refer to, are instrumental in ensuring we can work collaboratively to deliver services where they are most needed, within funding limitations,” Ben concludes.

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