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    Telehealth program reduced unneeded diabetic retinopathy referrals

    The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services safety net clinics successfully implemented a primary care-based teleretinal diabetes retinopathy screening (TDRS) program, eliminating the need for more than 14,000 visits to specialty care professionals, according to the results of a study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine.

    “We see an immense amount of preventable blindness from diabetic retinopathy in our Los Angeles County population and, as in most U.S. safety net populations, our screening rates for this disease were low,” Lauren P. Daskivich, MD, MSHS, of the department’s Ophthalmology and Eye Health Programs told Medical Economics. “While our goal was to implement an intervention to help address this, we also wanted to study what we implemented to ensure that it was truly meeting the needs of our patients and our healthcare system.”

    Daskivich and colleagues tested a primary care-based TDRS program in five of 15 Los Angeles County Department of Health Services safety net clinics between September 2013 and December 2015. The safety net program is a “nonvertically integrated system” that serves underinsured and uninsured patients.

    The TDRS program was designed to move patients with normal retinal photographs out of line to be seen by specialty care professionals, reducing wait times for patients who do require treatment. In the program, 58 certified medical assistants and licensed vocational nurses were trained and certified as fundus photographers and existing medical assistants were trained to use the cameras in primary care settings and to upload these digital images to a web-based screening software.

    Next: Study details

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