February 2013

Professor Steve Iliffe and Kalpa Kharicha, University College London and Skanda Wijeyekoon, GP

A ‘rule of thumb’ approach designed to help doctors identify the markers of undiagnosed sight loss is instead letting patients slip through the cracks, according to research from University College London published by Thomas Pocklington Trust. Testing with 25 GPs found that the established heuristics were unclear, difficult to remember, and too time-consuming to be used in a 10-minute consultation, prompting calls for an alternative method to address the issue of undiagnosed sight loss in older people.

Key Facts:

  • Older people with undiagnosed sight loss are more likely to have received only basic education, be isolated, depressed, need assistance with daily living, have impaired memory and poorer self-rated health.
  • These characteristics were built into two heuristics (rules of thumb) to encourage GPs to identify older people who would benefit from an eye examination.
  • Testing 25 GPs found that heuristics were time-consuming, unclear, and difficult to remember.

How can this research help?

This research will form the basis of a larger investigation into whether it would be effective and beneficial for GPs to move away from heuristics and toward a ‘pattern recognition’ approach.

Links: 

Research Findings: Improving the Uptake of Eye Care among Older People: Developing a GP Training Programme – PDF version and Word version