Partnership aims to improve care, detect vision damage among those with diabetes earlier

Integrating medical technology to capture earlier diagnoses of diabetic-related diseases such as diabetic retinopathy is the focus of a newly formed network derived to improve timeliness and quality for diabetes care related to vision loss. The Portland InterHospital Physicians Association (Portland IPA) has teamed up with ophthalmology practices Oregon Eye Specialists and Eye Health Northwest and 14 local primary care practices to implement the use of a new handheld retinal camera from Hillrom that can be used in primary care settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named diabetic retinopathy as the leading cause of blindness among adults aged 20 to 74 years. Twelve percent of Americans have diabetes, with 1.7 million new cases diagnosed each year. The American Academy of Ophthalmology cites 80 percent of those with diabetes eventually develop diabetic retinopathy. “This is an exciting way to partner among practices in bringing new technology to benefit patients facing potential vision issues, and it aligns us with key preventive services as outlined by CMS’ Star Quality Rating System,” said Dinelli Monson, MD, a comprehensive ophthalmologist with Oregon Eye Specialists. Hillrom’s new compact, handheld ophthalmic camera is called the Welch Allyn® RetinaVue® 100 Imager. Patients with diabetes can now have their vision checked directly while at their primary care physician’s office. The images are uploaded and digitally transmitted to ophthalmic physician specialists for reading and analysis. When needed, the patient is referred to the ophthalmologist for care to prevent vision damage or loss. Brian Chan-Kai, MD, an ophthalmologist and retina specialist with Eye Health Northwest, said, “The most important part of this program is that patients are getting vision screenings in the primary care setting, which may detect potential pathology sooner and thus preserve more of the patient’s eyesight and help them better manage this part of their diabetes.” The Portland IPA provided financial resources for 14 primary care practices to purchase the camera, creating a quality program around coordination of care. “We brought together key independent primary care and specialty practices to collaborate and determine how best to facilitate the simple screenings with the goal of diagnosing retinopathy earlier and helping patients avoid potential future vision loss,” said Portland IPA Medical Director Tom Gragnola, MD, who is also a primary care provider at AIM Health Northwest. The 14 participating primary care providers include AIM Health NW (Advanced Internal Medicine); Broadway Medical Clinic; Chehalem Medical Clinic; Davies Clinic; Fanno Creek Clinic; GreenField Health Westside; Mountain View Medical Center; Pacific Medical Group Beaverton; Pacific Medical Group Canby; Pacific Medical Group North Portland; Pacific Medical Group Oregon City; Pacific Medical Group Tigard; Oregon City Family Practice; and Sellwood Medical Clinic. The American Diabetes Association found people with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes. People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.  (The Scribe - Medical Society of Metropolitan Portland, October 2019)