Project ups diabetic retinopathy screening in primary care

Key Takeaways

  • Using mobile diabetic retinopathy (DR) screening units in a primary care setting increased DR screening rates, and also increased knowledge and awareness of DR in adults with type 2 diabetes, according to a study.
  • The authors conclude that primary care settings can increase access to DR screening through a patient-centered process and thereby help to prevent irreversible outcomes of DR and improve quality of life.

A quality improvement (QI) project using mobile DR screening units in a primary care setting increased DR screening rates, and also increased knowledge and awareness of DR in adults with type 2 diabetes (T2D), according to a study published in the journal Clinical Diabetes. The 5-month QI project was implemented at a primary care clinic in a small North Carolina town that encompassed several diverse communities. The clinic partnered with a local accountable care organization (ACO) that contracts with commercial insurers and Medicare to provide patients with standard of care services. Approximately 2000 (13%) of the clinic’s adult patients have T2D and nearly half are insured and contracted with that ACO. A sample of 100 adult patients with T2D met inclusion criteria and 46 participated in DR screening, performed by ACO employees using hand-held cameras. The study found that average DR screening rate increased to 52.1% during the 5-month implementation period, from 45.3% during the prior 3 months. This represented a 15% improvement, achieving the project’s first aim. In addition, mean questionnaire DR knowledge scores improved from 81.5% pre- to 88.6% post-screening. In the questionnaire, 83% of patients responded that completing DR screening in their primary care provider’s office was convenient and preferable over other settings.

The authors write, “This project addressed gaps of care and demonstrated that primary care settings can increase access to DR screening through a patient-centered process and thereby help to prevent irreversible outcomes of DR and improve quality of life.” Limitations of the study include small sample size, the use of insured patients only, and short project duration. 

Source: Miriam Tucker, Medscape Medical News, November 6, 2023; see source article