PURPOSE: Contemporary eye care increasingly recommends the use of advanced retinal imaging technology. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this equipment is widely available in primary eye care settings; however, knowledge regarding how optometrists use this equipment in the context of diabetic retinopathy (DR) is limited. This study aimed to obtain a current overview of optometrists' clinical practice behaviours in the detection, screening, diagnosis and management of patients with diabetes.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was designed to evaluate optometrists' self-reported clinical practice patterns and perceptions, as well as the availability and impact of retinal imaging equipment specific to DR and diabetic macular oedema (DMO) on optometrists' clinical practice. The survey invited participation from all optometrists practising in Australia.
RESULTS: One hundred and sixty-seven optometrists participated. Optometrists' self-reported confidence in assessing DR and DMO was high. Optometrists' referral patterns considered the severity of DR and DMO before initiating referral to secondary ophthalmology care. Nearly all optometrists (98.8%) indicated that they had some form of retinal imaging equipment available to them in clinical practice. An optical coherence tomography (OCT) device was available to 75.5% of optometrists. A significant association between having an OCT device in the practice and higher self-reported confidence levels in the assessment of DMO was found.
CONCLUSIONS: Many optometrists are well equipped with sophisticated retinal imaging technology for the provision of high-quality eye care. Enhancing optometric training and education programmes can maximise the community benefit of access to this equipment and improve delivery of eye care in the community.