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New grant provides retinopathy screenings for diabetic patients

Doctor speaking with patient
Blog

/ by UK HealthCare

Diabetes is a complex condition that requires patients to check in regularly with providers across a number of specialties. Multiple appointments can mean repeated rounds of scheduling, traveling and follow-ups. Many patients don't have the flexibility to take off work, the means to travel or access to educational materials to help them manage their condition. But thanks to a new grant secured by UK HealthCare's CE Central and its partners at DKBmed, vital screenings for diabetic retinopathy will now be conducted by the patient's primary care provider.

Starting in March 2019, diabetic patients can receive retinopathy screenings at their primary care clinic. Previously, patients with diabetes would have to make a separate appointment with an ophthalmologist, which prevented patients from receiving the necessary screenings.

Thirteen percent of Kentuckians have diagnosed diabetes, and these screenings could impact as many as 10,000 patients across the Commonwealth. Currently, 40-45 percent of American diabetics have some form of retinopathy, but fewer than 50 percent of those are aware they have it.  

"By offering these tests in a more accessible venue, the barriers of time and transportation are mitigated, which will likely lead to more diabetic patients receiving the recommended yearly eye testing," said Dr. Ana Bastos de Carvalho, clinical instructor in the UK Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences and co-investigator in the study. "We expect to detect more pathology and also to detect it earlier on." Early diagnosis leads to a better chance of treating it.

After the patient is screened, the images are sent to a retina specialist for review. If the images indicate that further treatment is necessary, the care coordinator follows up with the patient, assists them with scheduling appointments and provides them with education materials.

CE Central, UK HealthCare's provider of continuing education for physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals, has partnered with DKBmed, an integrated continuing medical education company, to secure the grant for $485,486 from Regeneron to fund the screenings and offer training for providers in 23 clinics throughout Kentucky. It will also help buy more patient education materials, hire a care coordinator to help patients with referrals and provide information on how to integrate this new procedure into clinics.

The program, ODM: A Vision for Diabetic Eye Screening, was developed by DKBmed as a resource for clinicians treating patients with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that damages the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissues in the retina. If left untreated, retinopathy can lead to blindness. Treatments include better health control, medication and laser therapy, all of which will be available at UK and the affiliated satellite clinics.

"These screenings can serve as a catalyst for patients," said Jasleen Chahal, the grants program manager at CECentral and one of the principal investigators for the grant. "With blindness comes the loss of independence. It really gives patients motivation for managing their diabetes."

Diabetic patients at UK's Internal Medicine Group, Women's Health, Polk-Dalton Clinic, and the Family & Community Medicine Clinics in Lexington, Hazard, Georgetown, Hindman, as well as Park Duvalle Primary Care Clinics of Eastern Kentucky and the Family Health Centers in Louisville, will all offer retinopathy scans in as part of their regular screenings.

 

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