BACKGROUND/AIMS: Few studies have objectively examined the quality of eye care in China. We assessed refractive care using the incognito standardised patient (SP) approach, a gold standard for evaluating clinical practice.
METHODS: A total of 52 SPs were trained to provide standardised responses during eye examinations, and underwent automated and non-cycloplegic, subjective refraction by a senior ophthalmologist from Zhongshan Ophthalmologic Center, a national-level clinical and research centre. SPs subsequently received subjective refraction and eye exams at a randomly selected sample of 40 public hospitals and 93 private optical shops in Shaanxi, Northwestern China. Difference between expert and local refraction in the better-seeing eye was calculated by the vector diopteric method, and completeness of exams assessed against national standards. SP and provider demographic information and provider clinical experience were recorded.
RESULTS: SPs (n=52, mean (range) age, 25.7 (22-31) years, 28.8% male) underwent 133 eye exams (mean total duration 15.0±11.7 min) by 133 local refractionists (24-60 years, 30.3% male). Only 93 (69.9%), 121 (91.0%) and 104 (78.2%) of local refractionists assessed vision, automated and subjective refraction, respectively. The median inaccuracy was -0.25 diopters (D), while 25.6% of results differed by an absolute value of ≥1.0 D and 6.0% by ≥2.0 D. Predictors of inaccurate refraction included spectacle power <-6.0 D (OR=2.66; 95% CI, 1.27 to 5.56), service at a public (vs private) hospital (OR=2.01; 95% CI, 1.11 to 3.63) and provider male sex (OR=2.03; 95% CI, 1.11 to 3.69).
CONCLUSION: Inaccurate refractions are common in Northwestern China, particularly in public facilities. Important assessments, including subjective refraction, are frequently omitted.