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Wednesday / April 17.
HomeminewsNational Diabetes Screening to Reduce Vision Loss

National Diabetes Screening to Reduce Vision Loss

A national diabetes eye screening program is to be implemented to reduce vision loss and blindness in people with diabetes.

Health Minister, Hon Greg Hunt MP, has committed AU$1 million in funding for year one to commence development of the Australian-first initiative, which was proposed by leading diabetes and eye health groups: Diabetes Australia, Vision 2020 Australia, Oculo, and Specsavers. Specsavers has committed $1 million a year for five years to support this critical initiative.

The program has been hailed as a major step in the fight against diabetes related blindness and will enable early detection and treatment to protect the sight of over 1.2 million Australians living with diabetes. According to Vision 2020 Australia CEO Judith Abbott it will “encourage people with diabetes to visit existing optometry services and specialist ophthalmic service providers for Medicare-funded eye checks and early interventions””

we are confident that it will dramatically increase the number of people with diabetes who are having their eyes checked in the recommended time frames

The program will make use of Oculo – an Australian developed clinical communications platform specifically for eye care – and a new public portal to be built to enable optometrists, ophthalmologists, GPs, endocrinologists and diabetes health care professionals to better coordinate patient care by creating electronic patient records that include retinal photos, and making sure patients receive appropriate notifications for regular eye tests.

Too Many People Missing Eye Tests

Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said too many people with diabetes were missing out on eye checks that could prevent them from losing their sight.

“Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age Australians. We are pleased the Australian Government and industry partners are supporting this important initiative. Other industry partners are expected to contribute funding, and ongoing government funding will be sought for a five-year program,” he said.

“There are around 600,000 Australians with diabetes who are missing out on the recommended eye checks that would enable early detection and early treatment to prevent blindness. About 100,000 of these people are thought to be in need of treatment to protect their eye sight.”

Creating Stronger E-Health  Linkages

Optometry Australia CEO, Lyn Brodie said the program’s intent is to engage all optometry service providers across the nation and create stronger e-health linkages between GPs and other healthcare providers and optometrists.

Dr Peter van Wijngaarden from the Centre for Eye Research Australia and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital said it would help to facilitate greater levels of connection in the eye health sector.

“We have world-leading eye care providers in Australia, but we need to do better to make sure that people with diabetes access care at the right times and don’t fall through the cracks,” said Dr. van Wijngaarden.

“The implementation of systematic eye check programs has dramatically reduced rates of diabetes-related blindness in the United Kingdom, Iceland, Poland and Sweden.”

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, President A/Prof Mark Daniell, said with newer and more effective treatment such as intravitreal injections, the major challenge to preventing vision loss has been patients presenting too late for treatment.

“The new national diabetes eye screening program is an excellent initiative by chasing up patients who have not been screened. This initiative aligns with RANZCO’s collaborative care guidelines, which provide clear standards of care for diabetic retinopathy.”

Peter Larsen, Optometry Director from Specsavers said the program was “great news for the eye health sector… we are confident that it will dramatically increase the number of people with diabetes who are having their eyes checked in the recommended time frames,” he said.

“Specsavers looks forward to working with Diabetes Australia on proactive, targeted communications that encourage people to have timely eye checks to assist with early detection of problems and enable early treatment to save sight.”