Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to suffer blindness than the general population. Importantly, over 90% of vision loss is preventable or treatable. In rural and remote areas, the lack of adequate access to public cataract surgery has led to waiting times up to three times longer than major cities.
The Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service (IRIS) delivers eye care and eye surgery directly to communities in remote and rural Australia to help address this preventable vision loss.
Specialist IRIS Clinical Taskforce teams visit Indigenous and remote communities across Australia to provide remote communities with access to world-class eye health services.
IRIS ensures that patients get care and eye surgery closer to home, in their community, and in a timely way. This reduces the impact on the local community and greatly improves the overall patient experience.
The IRIS Program is funded through a grant from the Australian Government and coordinated by Vanguard Health.
Clinic services are delivered locally in Indigenous and remote communities, with surgery provided in rural hospitals as close to each community as practical.
The IRIS Program maximises local capability and ensures our flexible approach ensures that we can address local constraints that may otherwise inhibit patient care delivery.
The IRIS Clinical Taskforce has a focus on ensuring engagement of local stakeholders, using local clinical teams and working to upskill existing staff to provide legacy value.
Each member of the IRIS Clinical Services team brings significant expertise in their field, is experienced in outreach and is a highly regarded member of their profession.
Patients are our focus as our IRIS Program KPIs measure surgical outcomes and patient experience, not hours on the ground or the number of visits.
Vanguard Health, the IRIS Program delivery partner, has deep experience in health service coordination in regional, rural and remote health across Australia.
The IRIS Program provides services across remote Australian communities in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. Services in New South Wales and South Australia are being planned for later in 2019. This builds on the success of the original IRIS Program that provided services across Australia during 2010-2014.
Eyesight is something that many of us take for granted. In the city, if we have problems with our vision we have a multitude of treatment options to consider. These include visiting an optometrist to get glasses or a referral to an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) to have more serious conditions assessed and treated. In rural and remote communities these services are often lacking, particularly for medical specialist services from an ophthalmologist.
The impact of poor eyesight includes personal impacts around the quality of life and employment. At the community level poor eyesight impacts on caregiving to extended families and reduced social interactions. Travelling to regional health hubs means significant time away from family and the social supports of the broader community.
Vanguard Health has a strong focus on social justice and equity of access for all Australians. The IRIS program is our way or restoring dignity to patients and addressing preventable causes of blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities.
The IRIS Program provides care directly in the community and ensures that patients can access high-quality eye surgery, including cataract removal, closer to home and with less disruption.