Delayed attendance at routine eye examinations is associated with increased probability of general practitioner referral: a record linkage study in Northern Ireland

David M Wright, Dermot O'Reilly, Augusto Azuara-Blanco, Raymond Curran, Margaret McMullan, Ruth E Hogg

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Abstract

Purpose: To investigate relationships between health and socio-economic status
with delayed attendance at routine eye examinations and risk of subsequent general practitioner (GP) referral in Northern Ireland.

Methods: We constructed a cohort of 132 046 community dwelling individuals
aged ≥60 years, drawing contextual information from the 2011 Northern Ireland
Census. Using linked administrative records of routine eye examinations between 2009 and 2014, we calculated 311 999 examination intervals. Multinomial models were used to estimate associations between contextual factors and examination interval (classified into three groups: early recall, on-time, delayed attendance). Associations between examination interval and referral risk were estimated using logistic regression.

Results: Delayed attendance was recorded for 129 857 (41.6%) examination
intervals, 53 759 (17.2%) delayed by ≥6 months. Female sex, poor general or
mental health were each associated with delay, as were longer distances to optometry services among those aged ≥70 years (longest vs shortest: Relative Risk Ratio = 1.21 [1.14, 1.28]). Low income and residence in social housing were associated with reduced delay risk. There were 3347 (3.5%) and 11 401 (5.3%) GP
referrals in the 60–69 and ≥70 years age groups respectively. Delayed attendance was associated with increased referral risk in both groups (Odds Ratios: 60–69 years = 1.30 [1.04, 1.61]; ≥70 years = 1.07 [1.01, 1.13]).

Conclusions: Poor health and longer distances to optometry services were associated with delayed attendance at routine eye examinations but low income was not. Delayed attendance was associated with increased GP referral risk, indicative of missed opportunities to detect potentially serious eye conditions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2020

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