Digital ophthalmology in Scotland: Benefits to patient care and education

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Tackling visual impairment remains an important public health issue. Due to limited resources and the increasing demand on hospital eye services (HES), delivery of quality eye care within the community is essential. Training of clinical ophthalmic specialists and allied health-care professionals in the detection and management of common eye conditions can thus help to reduce the burden of eye disease and improve prognostic outcomes. Digital imaging has become a useful tool in facilitating eye-care delivery in both the community and hospital setting. In the last decade, the advent of electronic image exchange via a centralized referral unit in Scotland has revolutionized screening for ophthalmic disease, referrals, and shared care between community and HES clinicians. A government-led initiative known as the Scottish Eyecare Integration Project introduced electronic transfer of digital images within referrals from community optometrists to HES, which greatly reduced outpatient waiting times and improved patient satisfaction. The catalogue of live clinical information and digital images that resulted from the project led to the creation of a virtual learning platform through the University of Edinburgh. Participating professionals involved in eye care have interactive discussions about common eye conditions by sharing digital images of cases and investigations on a global online platform. This has received worldwide attention and inspired the creation of other university courses, e-learning platforms in eye-health education, and shared-care schemes in the screening of eye disease. We show that digital ophthalmology plays a vital role in the integration of community and HES partnership in delivery of patient care and in facilitating eye-health education to a global audience.




Annoh, R., Patel, S., Beck, D., Ellis, H., Dhillon, B., & Sanders, R. (2019). Digital ophthalmology in Scotland: Benefits to patient care and education. Clinical Ophthalmology, 13, 277–286.

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