Telemedicine Program for Screening of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States among adults aged 20-74. According to a recent study by Prevent Blindness America, New Mexico has the highest rate of diabetic retinopathy among adults over age 40 in the United States. Proper screening and timely intervention can reduce the risk of vision loss by 90% but only about half of the population with known diabetes receives annual eye exams.
Tele-retinal imaging exams provide a rapid, non-invasive, and effective manner of screening for diabetic retinopathy. Imagers are trained to take high resolution retinal photos of patients with diabetes and transmit them to the UNM Ophthalmology Clinic for interpretation. A report and suggested follow-up time is given to the ordering provider based on the status of the retinal photographs.
A pilot study of this project was performed at the Department of Health in Las Cruces, NM. The program screened 190 patients with diabetes from October 2008 until June 2009. Of these patients, 41 (21.5%) were found to have some level of diabetic retinopathy and 20 (10.5%) were found to have sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy. Those who were identified with high risk findings were immediately referred for treatment.
The UNM Tele-Retinal Imaging Program (TRIP) started screening patients for retinopathy at the Diabetes Comprehensive Care Center at the UNM Hospital in March of 2014. Additional sites have opened at the Family Health Center on 1209 University and Southwest Mesa Center for Family and Community Health.
We hope to expand this project by placing more fundus cameras throughout the state. This technology can identify patients with high risk diabetic retinopathy before sight loss occurs and when treatment can be more effective. Please join us in our mission of fighting blindness.