Optometrists should use electronic systems to improve data collection and referrals, says a report published by the College of Optometrists.

Entitled ‘Better data, better care: ophthalmic public health data report 2013’, the report says improving data collection by introducing electronic systems would help optometrists communicate with hospitals, GPS and local health authorities.

David Parkins, vice president for the College of Optometrists and chair of the data project steering group, said that good quality information was central to providing good quality patient care.

“An improved electronic system for referrals would reduce the cost burden of eye care to the NHS, helping to eliminate unnecessary referral appointments in addition to duplicated tests.

“The report emphasises that by taking responsibility for recording all this information and sharing data, optometrists will have the tools necessary to convince commissioners that commissioning from optometrists is good value for money,” he added.

Optometrists refer about 1m patients a year to a GP or hospital eye service, but this is primarily done using paper.

Following health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s call for a paperless NHS, the report recommends that standardised electronic and digital systems need to be put in place to bring consistency to data capture and measurement.

As well as being subject to postal delays, paper referrals do not allow good quality images from retinal cameras or ocular coherence tomography to be sent alongside the referral, says the report.

“The technology is available to enable this, but the will from government to integrate patient pathways in eye care fully is needed to implement this effectively,” Parkins said.

The report also calls for optometrists and other clinicians to be aware of how they can use data to improve patient care.

“Data and information on services can enable clinicians to assess their local communities’ care needs, and commissioners to identify and provide better quality service,” the report says.