Teleretinal screening for diabetic retinopathy may improve screening rates

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Utilizing teleretinal screenings for vitreoretinal conditions, including diabetic retinopathy (DR) may expand screening capacity and improve access to care in a cost-effective way, according to a presentation at Hawaiian Eye & Retina 2021.  

With teleretinal screening, a patient in need is identified, often by their primary care doctor. A trained professional then uses a telecompatible camera to collect images and upload them to a HIPAA compliant cloud-based server. An automated image interpretation is performed, and recommendations are delivered to the patients.

According to the presentation, teleretinal screenings have been proven to be effective in detecting DR. One study involving 935 patients who underwent both teleretinal screening and in-person evaluation, found that 86.2% of teleretinal screenings grades were within 1 DR severity level pf the grade determined at the clinical exam.

In addition, compliance has also been shown to improve with DR screening. One program saw compliance increase from 62% to 80% within the first year of use, while another found that implementing teleretinal screenings saved patients in rural areas approximately 1,900 hours of driving time over the course of 2 years by eliminating the need to drive to an urban center.

Despite its benefits, there are still some challenges that need to be overcome in order to make the most of teleretinal screening, including improving image quality, increase post-screening follow-up compliance, and advocating for financial sustainability.

The presentation was concluded by emphasizing that teleretina should be considered “adjunctive technology” and not a replacement of ophthalmologists.

Weng C. Challenges in teleretinal screening for diabetic retinopathy. Presented at: Hawaiian Eye & Retina 2021.

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