Expansion of Northern Ireland electronic care record sees improvement in eye care

This access brings a much more joined up approach to eye care in Northern Ireland with optometrists now having sight of the underlying health issues a patient may have

L-R: Margaret McMullan, Clinical Optometric Adviser, Health and Social Care Board; Gavin Corrigan, Optometrist, Corrigan Opticians; Stephen Beattie, eHealth Programme Manager, Business Services Organisation; Nick Willox, Sales Director, Orion Health

Orion Health has announced the successful expansion of the Northern Ireland Electronic Care Record (NIECR) to include community optometrists. For the first time, optometrists will now be able to access relevant aspects of a patient's electronic care record, including any medications they have been prescribed.

This access brings a much more joined up approach to eye care in Northern Ireland with optometrists now having sight of the underlying health issues a patient may have, such as diabetes, which could have a direct impact on their eye care.

"This expansion to include optometrists takes the NIECR further into the community and demonstrates what can be achieved when a project team thinks outside the box," commented Nick Willox, sales director for Orion Health. "We are delighted to have been part of this project in Northern Ireland and are looking forward to welcoming more user cohorts, such as dentists and medical students."

Key Benefits For Optometrists

  • Up To Date Patient Information: access to up to date information about attendance at Ophthalmology (and other eye services in secondary care) along with details of any underlying health issues allows more informed decisions to be made based on a holistic view of a patient’s electronic care record rather than relying on the patient’s memory.
  • Medication Details: knowing the details of any medications a patient has been prescribed is particularly useful when considering what could be causing side effects for a patient’s vision and also from preventing the optometrist from unknowingly prescribing a medication which could affect another condition the patient is suffering from.
  • Electronic Referrals: through the Clinical Communications Gateway optometrists can make electronic patient referrals directly to a dedicated clinical pathway with the patient in front of them thereby increasing the speed of referral and saving valuable GP time.
  • Access To Valuable Supporting Information: Consultants in secondary care can see supporting images and scans uploaded by optometrists, such as retinal images and OCT scans. This allows ophthalmologists excellent clinical information to assist in the triage and management of referrals, providing a real and meaningful benefit for patients.
  • Continuity Of Care: The ability of optometrists and indeed all medical professionals to make more informed decisions based on a holistic view of a patient's care will facilitate much better continuity of care, support better clinical decision making and will ultimately ensure the patient is placed on the correct clinical pathway in a timely manner leading to much better patient outcomes overall.
  • Strict Privacy Protocols: the introduction of strict protocols, such as two-factor authentication, coupled with a role-based access model which provides Optometrists with only a filtered view of the patient’s electronic care record, have all been designed to build trust and put patients at ease during their consultation.

There are currently plans to enhance the information available to optometrists through an interface with various management systems used by ophthalmology sub-specialties e.g. the macular service and providing access to the diabetes screening report from the Northern Ireland Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (NI DESP). A care pathway for cataracts is also on the roadmap, to enhance multi-disciplinary team working across care settings around patients with the condition.

Gavin Corrigan, optometrist at Corrigan Opticians in Cookstown concluded, "It’s brilliant to have access to patient information through the NIECR. I can follow a patient’s journey through the hospital eye service from my initial referral through to any appointments and procedures they have carried out. This allows me a more informed and patient-centric approach to my decision making."

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