Using incognito standardised patients to evaluate quality of eye care in China

Jingchun Nie, Lifang Zhang, Jiayuan Gao, Jason Li, Qian Zhou, Yaojiang Shi, Sean Sylvia, Nathan Congdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-316
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number3
Early online date20 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


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