Lancaster Physician Summer 2019 - 13

SUMMER 2019

PENN MEDICINE LANCASTER GENERAL HEALTH'S

TeleRetina Program
Helps Diabetic Patients Avoid Debilitating Vision Problems

U

ncontrolled diabetes is a leading cause of blindness. But unfortunately,
many diabetic patients don't get regular vision screenings or realize their
sight is at risk until it's too late.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health's TeleRetina program provides
a clearer picture of patients' risk for retinopathy, which can lead to blindness
if left untreated. Uncontrolled diabetes contributes to retinopathy by causing
damage to blood vessels of the retina, a light-sensitive tissue that lines the eye.
Christian Hermansen, MD, Medical Director for LG Health Physicians
Academic Region of primary care practices, said that only about half of diabetic patients nationwide follow recommendations for an annual retinopathy
screening. As of 2016, just over 30 percent of LG Health Physicians' diabetic
patients were screened.
"This gap will become even more problematic, as it is estimated that 1 in 3
Americans will have diabetes by 2050,1" said Hermansen, who sees patients and
serves as managing physician at LG Health Physicians Family Medicine Downtown. "Many diabetic patients aren't aware of the importance of regular vision
screenings. Other barriers to screenings include transportation, time and cost."
LG Health Physicians aims to reduce those barriers and increase convenience
for patients with the TeleRetina program, which offers quick, low-cost retinopathy
screenings in the primary-care office. The technology utilizes a special camera,
with the resulting images reviewed by an ophthalmologist.
Following a successful pilot that began in 2017, TeleRetina screenings are now
available in most of LG Health Physicians' 34 primary-care locations, as well as
LG Health Physicians Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Since the project began, LG Health Physicians has increased its overall retinopathy screening rate to more than 49 percent, an improvement of 19 percent.
Retinopathy was found in about 29 percent of the nearly 750 diabetic patients
screened to date.
"Diabetic retinopathy, which represents a leading cause of adult blindness, is
90 percent treatable when detected," Hermansen said. "We are finding a lot of
issues that can potentially save our patients' sight."
The TeleRetina screening is ordered by an LG Health medical provider and
performed by staff who are trained to take images of the patient's eyes using
high-resolution cameras that don't require eye drops for dilation. Most insurance
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Lancaster Physician Summer 2019

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