The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and the Australian College of Optometry (ACO) are celebrating the 200th joint Glaucoma Collaborative Care clinic during Glaucoma Week.

The Glaucoma Collaborative Care clinic, delivered by The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (Eye and Ear) and the Australian College of Optometry (ACO), is celebrating its 200th clinic this Glaucoma Week.

Now in its seventh year, the Glaucoma Collaborative Care clinic was initiated by the Eye and Ear in response to rising glaucoma levels and aims to alleviate pressure on in-demand public health ophthalmologists and ensure appropriate care for patients. Originally serving as a pilot project between 2016-2017, the clinic was based on the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology (RANZCO) new model of collaborative glaucoma care guidelines.

The clinic provides diagnostic and ophthalmic review for low risk glaucoma and glaucoma suspect patients from the Eye and Ear. The program has been developed to provide patient-centred, cost effective care. Its primary focus is on facilitating community-based follow-up when appropriate, whilst also improving access to specialist hospital-based care for patients with diagnosed glaucoma who are at higher risk of disease progression.

Running fortnightly from the ACO’s main clinic in Carlton, the glaucoma clinic’s innovative approach evidences how a team-based approach involving ophthalmologists, optometrists and orthoptists is integral to supporting positive eye care outcomes for patients.

Dr Catherine Green, Head of the Glaucoma clinic at the Eye and Ear, has been a staunch advocate for the collaborative clinic since its beginnings and agrees that the clinic’s progressive approach to care has made a difference to glaucoma patients, “This shared care management of glaucoma patients has resulted in a more streamlined approach in the diagnosis and treatment of suitable patients.”

A/Prof George Kong and Janelle Scully with a patient

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. The increasing prevalence of glaucoma and its silent vision loss poses a large threat to the health and well-being of the community and the pressures on the public health service. Glaucoma Australia estimates that 50% of the more than 300,000 Australians projected to have the condition are unaware they have it, risking significant vision loss due to lack of treatment. While anyone may develop glaucoma, the risk increases with age, from 1 in 10,000 at birth to 1 in 8 by age 80.

Janelle Scully, ACO Lead Optometrist Ocular Disease Services, commented, “The demand for public glaucoma services has been steadily rising due to our ageing population and increasing cost of living pressures. The Glaucoma Collaborative Care clinic is uniquely positioned to offer patients access to suitable care while also easing the demand on Eye and Ear’s ophthalmology services. The ACO’s Carlton clinic is well-resourced to host the fortnightly clinic and participate in the collaborative model of care which is so successfully demonstrated by this program.”

Over the past 20 years, the Eye and Ear has seen a 29 per cent increase in surgical patients with glaucoma and estimates that across Australia glaucoma will increase from 208,000 in 2005 to 379,000 in 2025 due in part to the identified aging population nationally.

The milestone was celebrated by Eye and Ear ophthalmologists Associate Professor (A/Prof) George Kong; and ACO optometrists Janelle Scully, Josephine Li, Joe Waterman, Tracy Tran and Iris Huang; and clinical assistant, Dr Ashim Dey, on Wednesday afternoon as they enjoyed a break from the 200th clinic.

When asked about the milestone. A/Prof Kong commented, “It’s a significant achievement to have reached our 200th clinic together and to be celebrating it during World Glaucoma Week. This collaboration between the Eye and Ear and Australian College of Optometry has made a difference to many patients by providing them with timely diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care of their glaucoma.  It allows many patients to be safely managed in the community until further intervention is needed.”

The Glaucoma Collaborative Care clinic team (L-R) clinical assistant Dr Ashim Dey; optometrists Josephine Li, Joe Waterman, Tracy Tran, Janelle Scully; ophthalmologist Dr George Kong and optometrist Iris Huang celebrate its 200 th clinic.