UK HealthCare

New Grant Provides Retinopathy Screenings for Diabetics

Back Row: Chris Yost, Rob Sprang, Eric Higgins and Galen Stone. Front row: Roberto Cardarelli, Jasleen Chahal and Ana Bastos de Carvalho Not pictured: Dr. Kimberly Northrip

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 24, 2018) Diabetes is a complex condition that requires patients to check in with providers across a number of specialties. Multiple appointments with practitioners can mean endless rounds of scheduling, traveling and follow-ups. Many patients don't have the flexibility to take off work, the means to travel, or access to education materials to help them manage their condition. But thanks to a new grant secured by UK HealthCare's CE Central and their partners at DKBmed, vital screenings for diabetic retinopathy will be conducted by the patient's primary care provider.

Starting in March 2019, diabetic patients can receive retinopathy screenings at their primary care clinic. Previously, patients with diabetes would have to make a separate appointment at an ophthalmologist - a barrier that prevented patients from receiving the necessary screenings.

"By offering these tests in a more accessible venue, the barriers of time and transportation are mitigated, which will likely lead to more diabetic patients receiving the recommended yearly eye testing," said Dr. Ana Bastos de Carvalho, clinical instructor in the University of Kentucky's Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and co-investigator in the study. "We expect to detect more pathology and also to detect it earlier on and therefore allow for better visual prognosis."

After the patient is screened, the images are sent to a retina specialist for review. If the images indicate further treatment is necessary, the care coordinator follows up with the patient, assists them with scheduling appointments and provides them with education materials.

CE Central, UK HealthCare's provider of continuing education for physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals, in conjunction with DKBmed, an integrated continuing medical education company secured a grant for $485,486 from Regeneron to fund not only the screenings, but also training for providers in 23 clinics throughout Kentucky, patient education materials, a care coordinator to help patients with referrals, and information on how to integrate this new procedure into clinics.

The program, ODM: A Vision for Diabetic Eye Screening, was developed by DKBmed as a resource for clinicians treating patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that damages the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissues in the retina. Treatments include better health control, medication, and laser therapy, all of which will be available at UK and the affiliated satellite clinics. Untreated, retinopathy can lead to blindness.

"These screenings can serve as a catalyst for patients," said Jasleen Chahal, the grants program manager at CECentral  and one of the principal investigators for the grant. "With blindness comes the loss of independence. It really gives patients motivation for managing their diabetes."

Diabetic patients at UK's Internal Medicine Group, Women's Health, Polk-Dalton Clinic, and the Family and Community Medicine Clinics in Lexington, Hazard, Georgetown, Hindman, as well as Park Duvalle Primary Care Clinics of Eastern Kentucky and the Family Health Centers in Louisville, will all offer retinopathy scans in as part of their regular screenings.

Thirteen percent of Kentuckians have diagnosed diabetes, and these screenings could impact as many as 10,000 patients across the Commonwealth. Currently, 40-45 percent of American diabetics have some form of retinopathy, but fewer than 50 percent are aware they have it.  

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue