The design and implementation of a study to investigate the effectiveness of community vs hospital eye service follow-up for patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration with quiescent disease.
Taylor J., Scott LJ., Rogers CA., Muldrew A., O'Reilly D., Wordsworth S., Mills N., Hogg R., Violato M., Harding SP., Peto T., Townsend D., Chakravarthy U., Reeves BC.
IntroductionStandard treatment for neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) is intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF drugs. Following multiple injections, nAMD lesions often become quiescent but there is a high risk of reactivation, and regular review by hospital ophthalmologists is the norm. The present trial examines the feasibility of community optometrists making lesion reactivation decisions.MethodsThe Effectiveness of Community vs Hospital Eye Service (ECHoES) trial is a virtual trial; lesion reactivation decisions were made about vignettes that comprised clinical data, colour fundus photographs, and optical coherence tomograms displayed on a web-based platform. Participants were either hospital ophthalmologists or community optometrists. All participants were provided with webinar training on the disease, its management, and assessment of the retinal imaging outputs. In a balanced design, 96 participants each assessed 42 vignettes; a total of 288 vignettes were assessed seven times by each professional group.The primary outcome is a participant's judgement of lesion reactivation compared with a reference standard. Secondary outcomes are the frequency of sight threatening errors; judgements about specific lesion components; participant-rated confidence in their decisions about the primary outcome; cost effectiveness of follow-up by optometrists rather than ophthalmologists.DiscussionThis trial addresses an important question for the NHS, namely whether, with appropriate training, community optometrists can make retreatment decisions for patients with nAMD to the same standard as hospital ophthalmologists. The trial employed a novel approach as participation was entirely through a web-based application; the trial required very few resources compared with those that would have been needed for a conventional randomised controlled clinical trial.