Improving uptake of screening services in Bradford and Airedale

08 Apr 2016

An award-winning diabetic eye screening service in Bradford has seen a 10-15% improvement in patient screening services since being run by EMIS Care.

EMIS Care, formerly known as Medical Imaging, provides vital eye screening services to people with diabetes. If undetected, diabetic retinopathy can lead to irreversible blindness. But when caught early, it can be treated and blindness prevented.

“Our uptake was 72-73% in 2011 against a target of 70%. But now we’re hitting 85% uptake.”

Suzanne Beshara, programme manager

"The increase in uptake is with an ever-growing patient list too – we had 22,000 patients nine years ago, now we have 35,000," explains Suzanne.

It’s part of a project that was initiated in 2010 by the RNIB, focusing on overall eye health and sight loss prevention across Bradford.

A complex issue

With the consequences undetected diabetic retinopathy so serious, it’s hard to believe some people don’t go to their screening appointments. Suzanne explains: “A patient’s vision is usually unaffected until retinopathy gets to the most serious point. So a lot of people assume they’re fine and don’t come for their appointments. Our job is to convince them to come in, be screened, and sort out any issues now while they can.”

Zafar Iqbal is a patient of the service. He explains:  “Bradford has a large Asian population. For a lot of Asian woman, coming to healthcare appointments is something they’re not used to and are not comfortable with. But our screener, Barbara, explains everything and has a nice manner with everyone. She’s even learned Urdu to help put people at ease.”

Improving processes

Medical Imaging provides full administration of the service. They take care of the appointment booking, and look for ways to improve it to lead to a better service for patients and increased uptake of numbers. Suzanne explains: “We changed our way of offering appointments - instead of sending an invitation for an appointment and waiting for people to get in touch to book, we tested sending out a booked date and time. It worked – we measured the effect of this change and our attendance rates increased. We still get some people not coming to their appointments – but we factored that into working processes by shortening appointment times from 15 minutes to 10, to allow for missed appointments, and we can see more patients in the day.”

Support from technology

The project has been supported by software from EMIS Health – the UK’s leading provider in diabetic retinopathy screening software.

“We have a close working relationship with the local hospital,” said Suzanne. “Our OptoMize software connects with the hospital’s Medisoft system, so we can track the patient’s journey from clinic to hospital – it’s vital for the patients with the most serious cases (graded as R3). Once we can see that the patient has been referred to hospital, we call them and let them know. We can see who hasn’t turned up and we can chase them.

“The connection between OptoMize and the hospital system means we can concentrate on the patients that haven’t turned up and chase them – this increases the number of people going to their hospital appointments. We can track patients easily, and it helps us reach more people.”