BACKGROUND: Previous research has shown that cataract surgery referral letters to major metropolitan public hospitals in New South Wales have insufficient detail to inform patient triage or apply prioritisation tools. This study aimed to canvass the views of optometrists working in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (NSW/ACT) on standardising the referral process for public hospital cataract surgery.
METHODS: An online survey was sent to all NSW/ACT members of Optometry Australia in October 2017. Respondents were asked to select clinical and personal information to be included on a referral template using a list of 25 items. Data were also gathered on preferences for the cataract referral process and sources of cataract referral guidelines.
RESULTS: Two hundred and thirteen (response rate 13 per cent) optometrists completed the survey. There was close to universal support for inclusion of items like visual acuity (99 per cent), whereas other items had low support, including the date and details of previous refraction (26 per cent), history of falls (29 per cent) and health insurance status (29 per cent). Three-quarters of optometrists stated they would be willing to administer and report data from a patient survey about the functional impact of their cataract and level of visual disability. The preferred format of a standardised cataract referral template varied, although time efficiency and ease of completion were commonly cited reasons for preferences. Confirmation of receipt of referral from the public hospital, and a copy of the referral letter for the optometrist's records were also desirable. For the 61 per cent of respondents who reported accessing guidelines for cataract referral, 69 per cent stated the main source was Optometry NSW/ACT with fewer accessing guidelines directly from a public hospital or the NSW Health website.
CONCLUSION: Optometrists' preferences will be useful to inform the design and implementation of a standardised cataract referral template.