To identify the prevalence and risk factors of diabetic retinopathy (DR) among rural inhabitants included in a tele-ophthalmology program. To analyse diagnostic accuracy among primary care physicians, concordance with ophthalmologists, and financial savings.
An observational randomised study was conducted on 394 patients included in a tele-ophthalmology program (from January 2010 to January 2015). An analysis was performed on the clinical characteristics, DR findings in retinography images, and correspondence between the request for a second interpretation by an ophthalmologist, and previously established criteria for it: presence of moderate to severe DR, vision loss, poor image quality and/or intraocular pressure >22mmHg. Statistical analysis was performed using the SPSS program (Student t and χ(2) tests).
DR prevalence was 12.1%. Patients with glycosylated haemoglobin values >7.68% or those treated with a combination of insulin and oral antidiabetic drugs showed a higher risk of DR (P<.05). 43.3% of patients correctly referred to ophthalmologists showed moderate to severe DR. Unnecessary referrals to specialists were improved from 91.7% in 2010 to 98.6% in 2014. It is estimated that the program has made a total saving of €152,550.45.
Tele-ophthalmology programs are a useful tool in DR screening. Primary care physicians are able to distinguish patients who need specialist care, avoiding unnecessary referrals to ophthalmologists, and saving costs.