“Imagine every optometrist in the country being able to collaborate on outcomes for glaucoma management, amblyopia treatment, contact lens-induced ulcers, myopia progression and more using evidence-based outcomes to improve our patient’s care instead of waiting years for clinical trials,” said Jeff Michaels, OD, in an announcement about the AOA’s new clinical data registry. “As the primary eye care profession, this is a huge opportunity for optometry and the millions of patients we serve every year.”

Treat Locally, Act Globally
That tantalizing prospect is how the AOA describes the Measures and Outcomes Registry for Eye-care, or MORE for short. It’s a good pitch. Doctors by their very nature want to help people—so, here’s a chance to join in a project that helps all patients, not just the one in your chair right now. Your patient base is then no longer just your own community, it’s society at large. 

It’s a logical extension of the increasingly interconnected way of things nowadays. With online access ubiquitous and social networking a routine part of everyday life, doctors are sharing information and advice about patient care all the time. But discussions online can get wild and woolly, and privacy is always a concern. Plus, there’s no systematic way to analyze the data. Services like the MORE registry will crunch the numbers, helping you gauge the success of your patient care by creating profession-wide statistics and benchmarks. It’s optometry’s foray into the world of so-called “big data,” a trendy phrase for the mining of massively large databases to improve knowledge.

It’ll also help you with the mundane and often frustrating work of satisfying EHR meaningful use requirements and reporting to Medicare’s Physician Quality Reporting System. The AOA is working with EHR vendors to pull relevant data on patient care without compromising the privacy of patients or doctors. The Academy of Ophthalmology has a similar registry, called IRIS. Hopefully, there will come a day when the two databases can be merged or at least connected.

In the meantime, look for MORE to launch at the AOA’s annual meeting in Seattle this June.

A Registry on Your Wrist
Patients are getting connected, too. Apple’s new initiative called ResearchKit puts software on phones and, soon, watches that lets patients register for medical studies and enter health information directly into a clinical trial database.

When everyone is walking around with, in effect, a Star Trek tricorder in their hand or strapped to their wrist, ambitious stuff becomes possible. Of course, not everyone has these popular but inessential gadgets. Income and age disparities could skew the results mightily if not controlled for in data analysis. But connecting patients, doctors and medical statisticians today puts the infrastructure in place for ground-breaking advances to come.