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Improving acute eye consultations in general practice: A practical approach (UK)

Case Study

posted by WM Admin on 30 January 2015

The aim of this project was to improve acute eye consultations within the Birchwood Medical Practice (a large general practice serving the area of Birchwood, Lincoln in the UK). The project focused on the "red flag" findings that would identify patients who require referral for same-day ophthalmology assessment.

A retrospective baseline audit was carried out on all cases read-coded "conjunctivitis" over the period of one year. Initially, only 2.8% of consultations had documented all four findings.

By considering the main factors that lead to poor eye assessments, two main areas for improvement were identified. These were education (reinforced with memory aids) and improving the availability of eye examination equipment within each consultation room. An "eye examination kit" was developed with the needs of the general practitioner in mind.

The practice was re-audited six weeks following the intervention. Consultations where all four red flag findings were documented rose from 2.8% to 50%. This was found to be a statistically significant difference (p < 0.01). Pain was checked 63% of the time, compared to 26% prior to intervention. Visual acuity screening had increased to from 35% to 69%. Photophobia was the most significantly increased metric, from being documented only 6% of the time to now 63% of the time. Documentation of whether the symptoms were unilateral or bilateral had also increased from 88% to 94% of consultations.

The initial audit indicated that general practitioners often diagnosed conjunctivitis without screening for symptoms of sight-threatening disease. However, it was clear from the results that the doctors had made a significant change to their approach to acute eye consultations. This shows that doctors are willing to make changes to their behaviour when given the right tools and information. It was felt that a first-hand understanding of the problem and an open discussion regarding the changes required was key to the success of this project.

This project has shown that significant improvements can be achieved with practical and inexpensive interventions. Therefore, general practices throughout the UK are encouraged to adopt similar strategies to improve the identification of patients needing same-day Ophthalmology assessment.

This is an open access article and can be read in free full text at:

Teo, M. (2014). Improving acute eye consultations in general practice: A practical approach. BMJ Quality Imprvement Reports, 3.