Barriers and facilitators in the referral pathways to low vision services from the perspective of patients and professionals: a qualitative study

M.L. Stolwijk, R.M.A. van Nispen, A.J. van der Ham, E. Veenman, G.H.M.B. van Rens

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Underutilization of and lack of access to low vision services (LVS) has been reported internationally. The purpose of this study was to identify barriers and facilitators in LVS referral procedures and service delivery from both the perspective of people with visual impairment and professionals from different eye care providers in the Netherlands. Methods: A qualitative study in the Netherlands was conducted. Barriers and facilitators were explored through semi structured interviews with older adults with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and/or glaucoma (n = 14), and healthcare professionals including ophthalmologists and LVS professionals (n = 16). Framework analysis was used for analyzing the interviews with Atlas.ti software. Results: According to both patients and professionals, facilitators in LVS access and utilization are having motivation, self-advocacy, high participation needs and social support, as well as being negatively impacted by the impairment. Both samples found having good communication skills and informing patients about LVS as a healthcare provider to facilitate access. A long patient-provider relationship and the Dutch healthcare system were also mentioned as facilitators. Professionals additionally found long disease duration and the presence of low vision optometric services in the ophthalmic practice to promote access. Barriers that were reported by patients and professionals are lack of motivation, self-advocacy and acceptance of the impairment in patients. In addition, having low participation needs as a patient, lack of information provision by providers and time constraints in the ophthalmic practice were mentioned as barriers. Professionals also reported lack of social support, short disease duration of patients, a short patient-provider relationship and lack of coordination of care in the ophthalmic practice to hinder access. Conclusions: Findings suggest that providers’ lack of information provision about LVS, especially to patients who are less assertive, hamper referral to LVS. Providers should have attention for patients’ LVS needs and actively inform them and their social network about LVS to facilitate access. Educating and training providers about how and when to address LVS may help to reduce barriers in the referral pathways. In addition, referral procedures may benefit from tools that make providers more aware of LVS.
Original languageEnglish
Article number64
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Barriers and facilitators
  • Health services research
  • Low vision services
  • Referral
  • Visual impairment

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