Research for Treatments

Telemedicine Eye Exam Access for Diabetics

Virtual collaboration between primary care physicians and ophthalmologists may one day help prevent the top cause of new blindness in the U.S.  After a nationwide telemedicine, diabetic screening program in England, diabetic retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness there.

Similar e-health programs could grow in the U.S., where diabetic retinopathy remains the main cause of new-onset blindness.  The number of people with diabetes is projected to more than double to 366 million worldwide by 2030.

The Kellogg Eye Center conducted a study of older adults regarding this service.  Patients say they will use them if conveniently offered.  A telemedicine program could ease the burden on patients who face high costs of care, lack of access to care or have difficulty with transportation or getting time away from work.

Early detection and treatment is key to prevent blindness from diabetic retinopathy, but fewer than 65 percent of U.S. adults with diabetes undergo screening.

“Telemedicine has been shown to be a safe method to provide monitoring for diabetic eye care. If physicians plan to change the way that people get care, we must create a service that is appealing and tailored to the patients,” says senior study author Maria Woodward, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at Kellogg Eye Center.