Validity and reliability of eye healthcare professionals in the assessment of glaucoma – a systematic review

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Abstract

Objective(s):

To explore the validity and reliability of eye healthcare professionals with different levels of training in diagnosing and/or identifying glaucomatous progression.

Clinical relevance:

Substantial pressure is being placed on our current eye healthcare workforce by chronic diseases such as glaucoma. Shared care schemes and role expansion of professionals other than ophthalmologists are being proposed to alleviate this pressure. A sound evidence base is imperative to determine whether other allied health professionals are skilled and clinically competent, when it comes to taking on these new roles in glaucoma management.

Methods:

A systematic review of research articles identified in MEDLINE, CINAHL, Embase, Scopus and Cochrane Library was performed. Studies which investigated rater reliability of various health professionals in diagnosing and/or identifying glaucoma progression against a reference standard were included.

Results:

Of the 4088 publications identified by the initial database search, 32 met the inclusion criteria. The majority of studies demonstrated positive results, with most finding moderate to substantial agreement for inter- and intra-rater reliability across all testing modalities. The eye health professionals with ophthalmology training consistently attained the greatest agreement. When allied health professionals with different levels of training were compared, those who had completed residency training were significantly better than those who had not.

Conclusion:

The studies included in this review show promising results, including those raters without ophthalmology training. A lack of power calculations, unequal sample sizes in some studies and the diversity of the testing procedures used make it difficult to make sound inferences.

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