Delay in eye checks for newly diagnosed diabetes patients

30 June 2016

Australian patients newly diagnosed with diabetes are not having their eyes checked until about 3 years later, a study suggests.

The delay is “alarming” because it increases the risk of more severe retinopathy, according to the authors from the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

The data comes from the first cross-sectional survey of diabetic retinopathy referrals by GPs.

In a bid to compare actual practice with NHMRC guidelines, the researchers surveyed nearly 600 GPs in Victoria, receiving 175 complete responses.

They found the average time between diabetes diagnosis and first eye referral was 3.1 years.

More than half of the GPs said that they refer patients for an eye check upon diabetes diagnosis but 23% say their referral would be a year or more later.

Almost all say they send patients with type 2 diabetes for screening at least every 2 years but the researchers say this doesn’t fit with a recent study of patients that found one in three hadn’t had an eye test in the past 2 years.

“It is possible that GP overestimation of referrals, breakdown in the referral chain and challenges in utilising the referral could contribute to this disparity,” they write in a research letter.

They say their study found that communication with ophthalmologists is patchy, with only 39% of GPs confirming they’d received a report back on a patient’s initial assessment.

Last Reviewed: 30 June 2016
Reproduced with kind permission from Medical Observer.

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Rada Rouse

Rada Rouse

Rada is an award-winning medical journalist and a former president of the Australasian Medical Writers Association.