Dr. Christian Hermansen
LG Health is investing in new technology that aims to reduce the risk of severe vision loss in diabetics. The TeleRetina program allows staff at Lancaster General Health Physicians primary-care practices to screen for diabetic retinopathy— a common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of adult blindness.
When detected and treated early, the risk of severe vision loss in patients with retinopathy can be reduced by 90 percent.
The problem, according to Dr. Christian Hermansen, Regional Medical Director - Lancaster General Health Physicians, Academic Practices, is that about half of at-risk patients do not receive a regular eye screening.
“There are so many recommendations for diabetic patients – get your eyes checked, get your feet checked, get your flu shot, maintain your medications, check your blood sugar – and for many, getting to the eye doctor takes a lower priority,” explained Dr. Hermansen.
Incorporating screening into office visits
The TeleRetina program uses a hand-held camera to capture an image of the back of the eye. The test, which takes about five minutes, does not require the eye to be dilated and can be completed by a nurse or a member of the office staff during a regular visit.
“Our practices are nationally recognized as patient-centered medical homes, so our goal is to provide patients with as much care as we can in one location,” Dr. Hermansen said. “The more we can provide at the practice, the more likely we are to improve the quality of care and outcomes for our patients.”
Greater opportunities to improve quality of care
After the image is taken, it is reviewed by a local ophthalmologist and the results are delivered to the patient from his or her primary-care practice.
Dr. Hermansen explains that this provides another opportunity to follow up on the quality of care the patient is receiving for their diabetes.
“If the results look good, then we know we are managing the disease effectively and their vision is not in jeopardy,” he said.
“However, if the results indicate an issue we’ll say, ‘OK, one – we need to get you to the eye doctor, and two— let’s take a closer look at how we are managing your diabetes.’ Ultimately, this added service enables LG Health to provide the best possible care for diabetic patients.”
TeleRetina was first tested at Family Medicine Downtown and will roll out to all Lancaster General Health Physicians practices this summer.