International and national guidelines recommend an annual funduscopic examination for all diabetic patients, but such annual fundus examinations are not sufficiently performed in France. Non-mydriatic fundus photography is a valid method of evaluation for diabetic retinopathy (DR) and a viable alternative to ophthalmoscopy. After two pilot studies demonstrated the feasibility of telemedical screening for diabetic retinopathy in both hospital and primary-care settings, we developed a regional telemedical network, OPHDIAT, designed to facilitate access to regular annual evaluations of patients with diabetes while saving medical time.
OPHDIAT comprises peripheral screening centres equipped with non-mydriatic cameras, where fundus photographs are taken by technicians linked by telemedicine to a reference centre, where ophthalmologists grade the images. Currently in the Ile-de-France region, 16 screening centres are linked through a central server to an ophthalmologic reading centre and includes 11 centres located in the diabetes departments of 11 hospitals, one diabetic retinopathy screening centre located in northern Paris, three in healthcare centres and one in a prison.
During the 28-month evaluation period, 15,307 DR screening examinations were performed. Retinal photographs of at least one eye could not be graded in 1332 patients (9.7%) and diabetic retinopathy was detected in 3350 patients (23.4%). After the screening examination, 3478 patients (25.2%) were referred to an ophthalmologist for either DR, cataract and/or non-gradable photographs.
Fundus photography combined with telemedicine has the potential to improve the regular annual evaluation for diabetic retinopathy. The organization of the network around a central reading centre serves to guarantee quality control.