New eye-care electronic referral system to launch across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICS

Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care System is to launch a new electronic eye-care referral system between optometrists and ophthalmology service providers.

The system has been procured by NHS England and is set to be launched across the integrated care system early next year.

It will replace “a range of referral arrangements in place” using paper letters and fax machines, and a “mixture of inherited systems and individual processes used by different services”.

The ICS said by using a shared system that it hopes it will provide “better, easier, and quicker communication between referrers and providers” and notes that “using clear forms and digital eye images will enable the right information to be shared early and a better clinical understanding of a patient’s condition”.

Following go-live, the ICS aims to view data from the system from across the services and identify trends to address any areas of inequality.

Opportunities will be made available for continuous learning and improvement with the new IT system, the ICS said, adding that it will allow feedback to be provided to the referrer and facilitate guidance and advice.

In October, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and The College of Optometrists called for the standardisation of digital imaging across eye care services.

The organisations said: “Currently, there is no standardisation across ophthalmic imaging technologies with the consequence that there is no easy way to exchange digital images between systems. Standardisation of digital imaging across eye care services would ensure that there is interoperability and a seamless interface that allows effective image sharing.”

The colleges added that “standardisation of imaging will support a seamless interface with technology” and support “the use of artificial intelligence”, which the colleges call “ultimately effective” in preventing avoidable sight loss.