All NHS specialities were hit hard by the pressures of the pandemic, with eyecare being no exception. With thousands upon thousands of treatments and checkups having been cancelled or postponed, a mountainous backlog of cases is now placing a heavy burden on Hospital Eye Services.
Not only is the backlog a symptom of growing demand, but many of the presenting complaints are more serious or complex than would normally be dealt with, on account of lockdowns delaying patients presenting for treatment. Coupled with the ever-increasing burden on eyecare services from the aging population, it’s hardly surprising that experts are warning that services are at risk of being overwhelmed.
Traditional analogue approaches are no longer appropriate to meet the challenges ahead: it’s time to go digital.
What has worked best since the pandemic started?
At the top of the list of most valuable advances in digital healthcare made over the past 18 months is the effective use of digital communication tools facilitating the greater involvement of community healthcare services (including community optometrists) in the delivery of eyecare.
Teleophthalmology - the direct use of digital tools to facilitate eyecare delivery - has been proven to be a very impactful solution for reducing unnecessary referrals to Hospital Eye Services and building communication between optometrists and ophthalmologists.
A direct result of making use of these digital tools is improved communication between community and acute settings who formed collaborative relationships as a result.
In addition to these innovations making it possible for thousands of patients to access essential ophthalmology care in out-of-hospital settings, a welcome side effect is the opportunity to learn from cases and upskilling of clinical staff thanks to access to advice and clinical information through a single point of access.
A collaborative approach to patient management - between community optometrists, GPs and consultants - is on track to become a core feature of frontline care over the next 12 months.
To support this shift, we must continue to enable efficient communication between these previously disjointed teams. We can get on top of burgeoning waiting lists by providing access to the right medical advice and to the appropriate treatment options when patients see an optometrist or their GP for the first time. By making it easier, faster and more secure for community and high street optometrists to access advice and guidance, we can reroute patients away from hospital when they can be treated closer to home.
How Cinapsis facilitates digital ophthalmology delivery for NHS organisations
The company is constantly innovating and works in collaboration with NHSX to develop solutions that increase efficiencies in Optical practices. We believe that service managers should be provided with as much rich data as possible to help inform their provision. That’s why the Cinapsis platform is streamlining how data is passed between our EeRS solution and other clinical systems.
Dr Malcolm Gerald, Clinical Lead for Cinapsis Project, Gloucestershire ICS says:
“Rather than trying to train hundreds of people to use a new system, it’s much more efficient to seamlessly integrate new tech into existing systems - so the user can’t even tell from the interface that they’re accessing a tool from a new provider. That’s what you can do with Cinapsis.”
Speaking on one of our recent webinars, Dr Chin Whybrew, General Practitioner, The Stoke Road Surgery said:
“I love the Cinapsis toolbar - it makes it so quick and easy to access advice and guidance - it’s great!”
In one region, Cinapsis is helping eye care services by:
- Supporting operational decision-making with secure image exchange (including retinal and OCT scans) and video and audio calls
- Enabling pathway improvement and long term strategic planning with powerful analytics
- Supporting teams in transitioning to a system that is paperless, configurable and capable of capturing data and generating insights
- Strengthening collaboration between optometrists and ophthalmologists, with clinician details being always in view
- Taking away manual tasks for clinicians by making it possible for all information to be only entered once and available to everybody involved in the patient’s care. This is achieved through integrations with the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS), patient records in primary and secondary care and NHS Mail
In practice, Cinapsis is used in cases where optometrists are uncertain whether the patient they are seeing needs to be referred to an ophthalmologic clinic. For example, the Minor Eye Conditions Service (MECS) optometrist sees a patient but they need a specialist opinion on the retinal scan. Using Cinapsis, they select the Macular Degeneration pathway and send the patient’s retinal scan to an ophthalmologist at the local hospital together with the clinical information requested by the ophthalmology service for that specific pathway (which can replicate any information in the paper referral form). The specialist replies with a diagnosis and advice on a treatment plan. If necessary, the specialist can arrange for an appropriate time to see the patient in their clinic.
This entire process is completed in minutes via Cinapsis, as opposed to the days and weeks of emails and follow up calls that an analogue referral typically involves.
Cinapsis reduces the backlog of patients awaiting treatment, saves time and resources for clinicians, and strengthens productive relationships between primary and secondary and community eye care colleagues.
By underpinning collaboration and communication with best-practice guidelines, our platform is joining up primary, secondary and community eyecare services. We’re helping accelerate post-COVID recovery in Ophthalmology, tackling waiting lists and clinician overwhelm with sustainable solutions.