Australian general medical practitioner referral pathways for people with different ocular conditions

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BackgroundThe aim was to obtain an overview of general medical practitioner (GP) referral pathways to ocular health care and allied services for people identified with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy (DR) or glaucoma (GL).MethodsA questionnaire was developed to survey GPs in Australia. Questions included demographic information and referral patterns to ocular and health service providers. The survey was posted to 1,050 randomly selected GPs across Australia.ResultsFifty-eight GPs participated in this study amounting to a 6.5 per cent response rate. Nearly all GPs referred patients to ophthalmologists (AMD: 98 per cent; DR: 98 per cent; GL: 95 per cent). A smaller proportion of GPs also referred to low vision rehabilitation (LVR) services (AMD: 34 per cent; DR: 33 per cent; GL: 22 per cent), optometrists (AMD: 26 per cent; DR: 34 per cent; GL: 31 per cent), or support services (AMD: 17 per cent; DR: 40 per cent; GL: 19 per cent). For the three tested conditions, there were no statistically significant differences in the proportions of GPs, who referred to ophthalmologists (p = 0.43), optometrists (p = 0.48) or to low vision rehabilitation services (p = 0.31). The proportion of GPs who referred to support services was significantly higher for patients diagnosed with DR than AMD or GL (p < 0.05).ConclusionThe majority of GPs referred patients with AMD, DR or GL to ophthalmologists. Fewer GPs considered referrals to optometrists, low vision rehabilitation or support services. General practitioners may need to be more aware about the central role of optometrists in the delivery of primary eye health care. In the interest of optimising eye care, closer working relationships between GPs and optometrists should be fostered.

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