Embedding retinal photography into primary health care

  • People looking at retinal scans
  • People looking at retinal scans
  • workshop people at table
  • workshop group photo

Photos: Brien Holden Vision Institute

A program aimed at increasing the rates of annual retinal checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes by installing retinal cameras in primary health care sites across Australia has been expanded, with the Australian Government providing further funding until June 2020.

The Provision of Eye Health Equipment and Training program began national operations in March 2017 working collaboratively under a consortium approach, installing retinal cameras, and providing training and support for the recipient health services across Australia. Its primary aim is to increase rates of annual retinal checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes, via the MBS item 12325 Retinal photography with a non-mydriatic retinal camera.

The additional funding of $2.5 million from the Australian Department of Health, will allow more retinal cameras to be distributed in primary health care sites across Australia, raising the total from 105 to 155. A second aim of the extension is to identify and support how best to embed the retinal cameras into the primary health care processes.   

Up to 30 June this year,  100 health centre sites had received cameras and 497 health workers had been trained Australia-wide. Over the next couple of months another 34 cameras are on their way to the identified locations and these health centre sites are in preparation for training to begin.

The Consortium consists of five organisations co-led by Brien Holden Vision Institute and the Australian College of Optometry, working with the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, Centre for Eye Health, and Optometry Australia.

The Consortium members are collaborating on the design and delivery of a new toolkit aimed to assist health care staff embedding the retinal cameras into existing health services. Methods being followed include mentoring, with general practitioners, health service managers, CEO’s and other associated management staff playing a role integrating the new process into their practice.

A workshop dedicated specifically to developing the embedding process was held in November last year. The well-supported one-day event was predominantly Indigenous-led, with 56 participants representing 37 organisations across the primary health care sector in Australia.

Prior to the workshop, a stakeholder survey was sent to all sites who had already received their camera. We received 57 responses from 37 locations widely spread across Australia, and of the 57 respondents, 72 per cent indicated, the integration of the retinal camera into their primary health care processes and eye care referral pathways, was either “excellent” or “good”.

The workshop focused on collaboratively gathering input from the participants to guide the development of a toolkit. Participants considered the barriers and learnings experienced on the ground around integration of services and equipment within existing systems and how to develop  the toolkit for use in a practical way. Mentoring of this collaborative design will continue over the remainder of the project period until June 2020.  

Colina Waddell, Project Manager for Australia, Brien Holden Vision Institute spoke passionately about the program:

“We are grateful for the opportunity to make further inroads towards addressing the inequalities in eye care that exist within Australia. It was pleasing to see so many representatives at the embedding workshop from Aboriginal community controlled health organisationss and peak bodies. We saw lively and committed engagement in both the small table groups and the big group. We are keen to ensure all discussions and learnings influence the program design moving forwards.”

To learn more about and/or follow the progress of the Provision of Eye Health Equipment and Training program visit the website.


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