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16-10-2012 | Legal medicine | Article

Vision care providers worry about effect of reporting driving concerns

Abstract

Free abstract

medwireNews: Two-thirds of vision care providers (VCPs; optometrists and ophthalmologists) routinely enquire about their older patients' driving, while almost half believe that reporting patients negatively to government agencies affects the physician-patient relationship, show US study results.

Indeed, the researchers suggest that "further attention should be given to addressing barriers, providing resources, and devising communication strategies between VCPs and other members of the health care team."

Writing in the Archives of Ophthalmology, they add that improving such lines of communication "could increase the likelihood that older adults receive the assistance required to remain safe drivers and that potentially unsafe drivers are identified more often."

The recommendations emerge from a survey of 404 VCPs working in Michigan, USA, in practices containing at least some patients aged 65 years and older.

The majority of respondents (87%) agreed that they should ask about their older patients' driving concerns, even if they do not bring up the matter themselves, report Rebecca Leinberger (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) and colleagues.

The majority (86.3%) also believed it is an important part of their role to counsel older patients about safe driving, with nearly two-thirds (64.1%) routinely asking such patients about their driving. By contrast, just over one-third (38.6%) of VCPs thought they should report concerns to a governmental agency.

The barriers to evaluating driving safety cited by respondents included a negative impact on the physician-patient relationship (57.2%), the possibility of breaching physician-patient confidentiality (43.1%), and being held liable for reporting patients' driving abilities (24.2%). Interestingly, approximately half (43.6%) of VCPs also reported that they could be held accountable for not reporting individuals whose vision was inadequate for safe driving.

VCPs reported that driving assessment guidelines (80.5%), followed by clinical screening instruments (70.1%), and educational in-service training (59.0%) about how to evaluate safe driving would be the most helpful tools to evaluate driving ability.

"The increasing number of older drivers renders age-related difficulties an important public health issue," write Leinberger et al.

"Our findings suggest that providers of vision care in Michigan do not have faith in the current reporting system," they conclude.

medwireNews (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Sarah Guy, medwireNews Reporter

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