Direct referrals from optometrists account for up to 10% eye casualty attendances. Despite this, there remains a paucity of literature on optometrist referrals to eye casualty. A better understanding of these referrals could be helpful in the development of shared care emergency pathways. Diagnostic agreement between optometrists and ophthalmologists for emergency referrals can be used to identify areas for development of shared care working strategies in emergency ophthalmology.
A retrospective evaluation of 1059 consecutive optometric emergency referrals to Moorfields Eye Hospital was conducted. Referrals were only included when a letter or documentation for the reason for referral was provided. Diagnostic information from the referring optometrist and casualty doctor was summarised for each patient by an investigator (VMT) and recorded on a single spreadsheet. These clinical summaries were compared by a second independent investigator (IJ) and marked as agreeing, disagreeing or uncertain. Each clinical summary was then mapped to a diagnostic category using key word searches which were manually re-checked against the original summaries. Information on the timing of the referral and the outcome at the emergency department visit was also collated. Inter-observer agreement for diagnostic categories was measured using kappa coefficients.
Diagnostic agreement ranged between kappa 0.59 and 0.87. It was best for diagnoses within the red eye category (kappa 0.87). Compliance with College of Optometrists referral guidance ranged between 11 and 100%. More than half of referrals for elevated intra-ocular pressure were discharged at the eye casualty visit. Overall, 54% of patients were managed with advice alone, 39% required treatment following referral and 7% required onward referral from eye casualty.
The majority of patients referred by optometrists were managed with advice alone. A collaborative approach at the point referral could be helpful to improve referral efficiency.