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Telemedicine-based diabetic retinopathy screening programs: an evaluation of utility and cost-effectiveness

Authors Cuadros J

Received 24 January 2015

Accepted for publication 2 April 2015

Published 10 June 2015 Volume 2015:3 Pages 119—127

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/SHTT.S64448

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Yelena Yesha


Jorge A Cuadros

Optometry/Vision Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

Abstract: Diabetes is the main cause of blindness among working age adults, although treatment is highly effective in preventing vision loss. Eye examinations are recommended on a yearly basis for most patients for timely detection of retinal disease. Telemedicine-based diabetic retinopathy screening (TMDRS) programs have been developed to identify patients with sight-threatening diabetic eye disease because patients are often noncompliant with recommended live eye examinations. This article reviews the cost-effectiveness of the various forms of TMDRS. A review of relevant articles, mostly published since 2008, shows that societal benefits generally outweigh the costs of TMDRS. However, advances in technology to improve efficacy, lower costs, and broaden screening to other sight-threatening conditions, such as glaucoma and refractive error, are necessary to improve the sustainability of TMDRS within health care organizations. Patient satisfaction with these telemedicine programs is generally high. New models of shared care with primary care providers and staff are emerging to improve patient engagement and follow-up care when individuals are found to have sight-threatening eye disease. TMDRS programs are growing and provide valuable clinical benefit. The cost-utility is currently well proven in locations with limited access to regular eye care services, such as rural areas, poor communities, and prison systems; however, improvements over time are necessary for these programs to be cost-effective in mainstream medical settings in the future.

Keywords: telemedicine, diabetes, retinopathy, retinal imaging

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