Cataracts: Improving the patient journey

Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation has funded a 12-month study on the current cataract patient experience. From initial referral through to post-operative care, patients and their families will be consulted, and new systems and procedures created. It’s all about future-proofing the system as demand continues to grow.

The case for funding

Based on data from the 2016 National Eye Health Survey, researchers estimate nearly a quarter of a million people are living with visually significant cataracts in Australia.

Cataract is a clouding of what is normally the clear lens of the eye. It is a leading cause of vision loss and a common condition in older adults.

Approximately 20% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 40 and over are affected, and 14% of non-Indigenous people aged 50 and over. It significantly impacts people’s ability to work, drive, and care for themselves and others.

On average, Sydney Eye Hospital currently performs over 295 cataract operations per month, with approximately 3,540 episodes of care annually. Over the last three years surgical discharge for cataract surgery has increased on average by 500 cases per year (14%).

The COVID -19 pandemic has resulted in a severe disruption to elective surgery wait times. Patient wait time for cataract surgery in NSW is around 330 days, an increase of 98 days since 2019.

A team of researchers recently reported that while wait times for cataract surgery vary greatly around Australia, official statistics do not capture the “wait for the wait”, or the length of time it takes after diagnosis to get on a hospital elective surgery list.

Extended waits for treatment put patients at greater risk of falls, motor vehicle accidents, loss of income and other lifestyle factors such as social isolation.

The research determined that if the wait for surgery was capped at three months, over a three-year period it would result in more than 50,000 fewer falls, which can have severe consequences for older people.

Putting patient care first, Sydney Eye Hospital will conduct a review and redesign of the cataract patient journey. Not only to minimise risks to vulnerable people in the community, but to reduce the financial burden on the health system from the potential secondary health and safety issues arising.

Donor impact

By 2024, using the Clinical Redesign Project Management Process, a collaborative group of nursing and clinician staff at Sydney and Sydney Eye Hospital will work to improve the journey for cateract patients in line with Australian Clinical Care standards.

The consortium will review clinical and non-clinical aspects of care using a multi-disciplinary team approach in direct consultation with patients and their families.

These stakeholder interviews will identify key segments throughout the patient journey (from referral to surgical completion) in order to gain greater understanding of the pressure points and where value can be added. 

The ultimate aim of the project is to provide improved value-based care by increasing the flow of efficiency, and therefore reducing vision loss caused by cataract.

“The Foundation has been working for Sydney Eye Hospital for 41 years, and each year its role is one of greater importance as our population and demand for services grows. Like anything else, however, it is only as good as the support it is given, and I would like to thank all those loyal donors who are always ready to answer the Foundation’s call.” - Dr Pauline Rumma, Director of Clinical Services

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