Retinal Imaging Increases Compliance for Annual Eye Exams

There are more than 20 million diabetics in the United States, and all of them face the potential threat of blindness due to retinopathy, glaucoma and other sight-threatening eye conditions.

There are more than 20 million diabetics in the United States, and all of them face the potential threat of blindness due to retinopathy, glaucoma and other sight-threatening eye conditions. Despite this risk, only about half of all diabetics have an annual eye exam. Some of this may be due to a lack of awareness—eye problems such as retinopathy often have no symptoms—but many diabetic patients do not visit the ophthalmologist because of the time involved with a second appointment.

Retinal imaging in the primary care setting can help detect conditions like diabetic retinopathy. One unique new system, Retasure, from Digital Healthcare Inc., of Wake Forest, NC, is designed to increase patient compliance for retinal risk assessments by allowing primary care physicians to take retinal images using a fundus camera—a special microscope with a camera attached—and send those images to ophthalmologists to determine appropriate treatment.

Retasure captures digital images of diabetic patients’ retinas in a non-invasive procedure that requires no dilation and takes just a few minutes. The images are then transmitted over a secure, HIPAA compliant network to a board certified ophthalmologist for examination. Results are returned to the primary care physician within 72 hours. The imaging can be performed by non-clinicians in the primary care physician’s office.

The advantage of Retasure for primary care physicians is that they can expand their range of care for their diabetic patients. The diabetic patient, meanwhile, is able to have a retinal risk assessment as part of a regular visit to their doctor If pathology is present the patient is referred to an ophthalmologist.

Dr. Jeremiah Brown, of San Antonio, called Retasure “a tremendous advance” in early detection of eye conditions and diseases. Brown, an ophthalmologist specializing in diabetic retinopathy and retinal diseases at Ophthalmology Associates of San Antonio, said Retasure “will aid greatly in getting diabetics to have an annual eye assessment. Having primary care physicians capture retinal images and board certified ophthalmologists read those images makes things much easier for patients..”

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among the working age population, and it can be prevented through early detection. The uniqueness of Retasure is that it allows early detection through primary care physician services.

The risks to a diabetic patient’s vision can be avoided by controlling blood glucose levels and cholesterol levels. Retinopathy can be treated with laser surgery and other methods. However, according to National Institutes of Health, damage cannot always be reversed. That makes early detection with retinal imaging key to saving the sight of diabetics.

Giving physicians and their diabetic patients greater access to a service that can save their eyesight is what makes Retasure special. It expands the range of care for primary care physicians while allowing patients the convenience of being examined in their primary care physician’s office.

Scott Sanner is senior vice president for North American Operations for Digital Healthcare