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Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2008 Aug;36(6):547-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-9071.2008.01830.x.

Access and utilization of a new low-vision rehabilitation service.

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Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



A new low-vision service linking a public hospital and a non-governmental organization was trialled in Melbourne, Australia. The factors associated with service use were investigated.


A survey was conducted with patients who used the service, those who accepted referrals but failed to attend and those who refused a referral. Hospital and non-governmental organization representatives were also interviewed.


Ninety-eight eligible vision impaired people who were referred to the new service were recruited. Less than half (49%) followed through with their referral and attended the service. Proximity and convenience were listed as the main facilitators to service use while issues relating to transport, needing an accompanying person, lack of information about the service and poor health were the main barriers. More than a third of the non-compliant and referral refusers spoke a language other than English. Sixty-three per cent of all participants had not previously used low-vision services. Of the two main eye conditions, 81% of referred age-related macular degeneration participants (n = 26) attended the service, but only 32% of those with diabetic retinopathy (n = 31) did so.


As more than 60% of participants in each of the three groups had no prior use of low-vision services, clearly current models of care are not reaching many who could benefit from such services. This suggests that higher rates of referral are warranted. However, given that substantially more were referred than attended, referral alone is obviously not the answer. Access and attitudinal barriers also need to be addressed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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