Telemedicine could be the new frontier for diabetics' eye exam access

A new study from Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan's Kellogg Eye Center found telemedicine could help prevent diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to onset blindness.

Although screening is key to early detection of diabetic retinopathy, less than 65 percent of diabetic adults in the U.S. regularly undergo screening.

The study, published in Telemedicine and e-Health, examined 97 older adults with diabetes. Researchers found only 3 percent knew what telemedicine was. However, once the concept was explained, 69 percent said telemedicine could be more useful than in-person exams.

Patients who'd had diabetes for a longer period of time and who maintained a strong relationship with their optometrist were less likely to be interested in telemedicine. On the other hand, patients with other health issues that made traveling difficult were more likely to be interested in telemedicine.

"Patients with long-standing diseases are less likely to trust a new, less personal delivery model. In our study, the highest impact on willingness was convenience of telemedicine," said Maria Woodward, MD, senior study author and assistant professor of ophthalmology at Kellogg Eye Center. "Our results indicate that willingness to participate in telemedicine for diabetic retinopathy screening reflects how patients perceived convenience, the patient-physician relationship and their own health."

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