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A major new initiative to boost eye health care services throughout remote parts of Western Australia (WA) was launched in February 2013. The new Lions Outback Vision website will map outreach services for eye health and provide a tele-health portal for patients living in remote parts of WA.
A new tele-ophthalmology service will be particularly beneficial to Indigenous communities, who suffer higher rates of eye disease than the general population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 40 have six times the rate of blindness of other Australians and 94% of vision loss in Indigenous Australia is preventable or treatable, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Outback Vision is led by ophthalmologist, Associate Professor Angus Turner, who said the new website offered the chance to better coordinate treatment with collaboration between optometrists and eye specialists, leading to improved outcomes for patients. 'Tele-ophthalmology can reduce the need for patients to travel to Perth or major regional centres for treatment and provides continuity of care between outreach trips,' he said. 'Information regarding visiting and/or resident ophthalmology and optometry services encompassing visiting dates, locations and booking information will be made available online.'
Outback Vision tele-health and website development manager, Sandra Oates, said patients would have access to information regarding general eye health, diseases, treatment, tele-ophthalmology and the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS).
The new Outback Vision website builds on Lions Eye Institute's (LEI) commitment to eye health in remote and Indigenous populations. LEI Managing Director, Professor David Mackey, said WA was taking a national leadership role in developing improved access to eye health services for Indigenous and remote populations.
'Dr Turner is now Chairing the National telemedicine project to develop a best practice model for the delivery of tele-ophthalmology across the country,' he said. 'We believe tele-ophthalmology will increasingly play a major role in the improvement of eye health outcomes for Indigenous people.'
Aboriginal Health Workers from all over WA converged at the LEI for the first Lions Outback Vision conference in February 2013 and received training on the use of the website and tele-ophthalmology. Optometrists, ophthalmology registrars and ophthalmologists also joined the group for additional training on the topic of cultural awareness provided by the Aboriginal Health Workers.
Lions Outback Vision is supported by the LEI, The University of Western Australia, McCusker Charitable Foundation, RANZCO Eye Foundation and Indigenous and Remote Eye Service (IRIS) - part of the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists.
Source: Lions Eye Institute