Teleophthalmology is the use of new technologies to provide greater access to high quality eye care to more people in their local communities. This technology is especially important for rural populations. Rural communities are older, less insured, travel longer distances, and have less access to eye specialists than those in urban areas. Our current program is focused on increasing diabetic eye screening and treatment in rural communities. Learn how below:
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Increases Access to Eye Care
Traditional eye exam screening requires an appointment, dilation of the eyes, and is an additional cost to the patient. The introduction of teleophthalmology programs in health care systems have resulted in higher screening rates initially, but after about 18 months rates decrease. Strategies to sustain this service are needed to maintain access to screening beyond this drop-off period. Referrals for this service need to become part of electronic reminders and the workflow for appointments.
This program is offered as a walk-in or by appointment service, making access to screening convenient for patients and referring providers. Dilation of the eyes is not needed for most patients so patients can drive and return to their daily activities immediately after the procedure. Results are sent directly to both patients and primary care providers to facilitate any follow-up.
Uses the Latest Technology
Screening for diabetic eye disease is simple when using a camera to take photos of the retina, or back of the eye, to detect retinopathy. Using this camera is quick and simple and can be provided as a walk-in service in primary care clinics. Patients sit in front of the camera, place their chin on a chin rest, and look at a green light. There is a flash of light similar to a regular camera and the entire process takes about ten minutes. Dilating eye drops are not needed for most people and patients describe the test as “easy”, “quick”, and “painless”. Images can be taken by any clinic staff willing to be trained. A full image report is then sent to an ophthalmologist to be read and a report is sent back to the clinic and patient with a diagnosis.
The cost of an eye photo test is less than a traditional eye exam for both the patient and the health care system. Affordability and convenience make this program a more accessible option for most patients to receive a yearly preventative screening.
The camera used for this project is the Topcon NW400 non-mydriatic retinal camera. This camera can automatically align to capture pictures, is relatively small, and can transmit images directly to eye care providers via internet connection. Below is a video demonstration of the camera.
Protecting your Sight
“If you enjoy looking at the world and you want to see it better it doesn’t hurt to get [your eyes] checked to make sure things are going okay…”
“I’m upstairs at the doctor’s office and he says maybe you should get this done… you walk downstairs… sit down for 10 minutes… you get it done and you go home… I mean, it’s so simple.”