New tech platform to tackle eyecare backlogs in Cambridgeshire

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of two trusts currently piloting a new digital optometry platform which aims to help accelerate patient treatment and reduce wait times.

It’s hoped that optometrists in Cambridgeshire will be able to use the technology – which has been designed by an NHS surgeon and a team of healthcare specialists – to ease pressure on the region’s eyecare services.

Called Cinapsis SmartReferrals, the platform is being rolled out across the county, and gives optometrists access to ‘on-the-spot advice and guidance from specialist clinical colleagues’, with the goal of supporting ‘faster, collaborative patient treatment’.

During or after a consultation, optometrists can connect with secondary care colleagues via their PC or mobile phone, using locally-designed care pathways that ‘support the smooth flow of data between primary, secondary and tertiary care’.

In addition, the technology also allows clinicians to transfer high-resolution images, documents, complete OCT scans and videos between mobile devices.

If specialist treatment is deemed necessary, the integrated pathways enable optometrists to ‘directly refer patients into secondary care or any commissioned community care provider’.

It’s hoped that this streamlining of the process will relieve some of the workload from the region’s GPs, as well as remove paper-based processes from optometry referrals, increase the percentage of referrals that are sent with accompanying images to improve diagnostic accuracy, open a ‘two-way communication loop’ between optometrists and service providers, and provide data insights to help plan care, analyse trends, and allocate spending.

Participating optometrists  involved in the project pilot can access advice and guidance from colleagues at the Addenbrooke’s, Hinchingbrooke and Peterborough City hospitals.

Alison Lask, Optometrist, Commissioning Lead at Cambridgeshire Local Optical Committee (LOC) and Clinical Governance Performance Lead at Primary Eye Care (Cambs) Ltd, said: “For too long, optometrists have been forced to work with outdated technologies that eat up their time and get in the way of delivering efficient patient care. My colleagues and I need solutions that are intuitive to use and are designed to relieve workloads rather than add to them.

“I can now access advice and guidance whilst my patients are in the consulting room, and in just a few minutes I can manage their secondary care referral directly from the Cinapsis platform. This is the future of collaborative eyecare delivery in Cambridgeshire.”

The pilot is now in an expansion phase and Cinapsis are currently also part of an Alpha Team working with NHSE and other providers to ‘build an Application Programming Interface (API)’ that will enable optometrists to launch the Electronic Referral System (e-RS) ‘directly from within the Practice Management System (PMS)’.

Elsewhere in Cambridgeshire, HTN also recently reported on Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care System (ICS)’s decision to choose Orion Health as its new shared care record provider at the end of last year.

Meanwhile, Cambridge University Hospitals has penned a five-year deal with Sensyne Health, to focus on harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for ethical research. And, already this year, the trust has also announced the launch of a new AI research programme to help diagnose mental health problems in children.