When patients are referred for consideration for cataract surgery, appointments are allocated using protocols that prioritise patients based on clinical need, including social circumstances, based on adequate information about the referred patient. This is particularly important in health service organisations that have substantial waiting lists for the first specialist assessment.
These protocols should describe criteria for accepting referrals and prioritising patients for ophthalmology assessment. They should include any tools to be used for providing standardised information, and allow for a credentialed ophthalmic clinician to review referrals to determine the priority and timing of ophthalmology assessments. In some states and territories, these protocols may be determined at a health department level for public hospital clinics.
Where referral criteria apply, these should be readily available and communicated to referring clinicians and patients. Consider providing a standardised referral template for referrals from the community to help ensure that adequate information is provided.
Protocols should include pathways for patients who do not meet referral criteria, who choose non-surgical options, or for whom surgery is considered unsuitable or inappropriate at ophthalmologic assessment. These pathways may include reassessment or follow-up, or referral to other services such as optometry, orthoptist, occupational therapy or vision clinics. Provide information back to the referring clinician.
Processes should be in place to monitor patients waiting for first ophthalmology appointments in case their clinical needs and priority change.
Monitor and audit outcomes within a quality improvement framework to assess whether desired outcomes are being achieved, including the time frame from referral to assessment and surgery.