Program Makes Eye Care Easier For Diabetics

Program Makes Eye Care Easier For Diabetics

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With a snap of a picture, many north country diabetic patients will now be able to get an eye screening right at their primary care provider. It's through a new program from the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization.

"we are incredibly excited to watch this program grow knowing that as we reach more patients we will be saving the sights of hundreds if not thousands of local north country residents," said FDRHPO Executive Director Erika Flint.

With a camera, a primary care doctor will be able to take a picture of a patient's retina and then electronically send it to a specialist.

"If they don't have anything come back on the review, then they don't need to go see an eye care specialist. But if they do, they now a reason to go see the eye care specialist. They've been told there's something wrong, you've gotta go have this looked at. It could lead to blindness if it's not taken care of immediately," said Robert Hunt, FDRHPO regional telemedicine manager. 

That's because patients are at risk of diabetic retinopathy, a condition where high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the retina, leading to vision problems or even blindness. FDRHPO officials say the new program will ease the burden on north country patients who may otherwise have to travel more than an hour to get to a specialist.

"They go to their physician regularly, they have to get their medication to manage their diabetes, we know they're going to show up at their primary care physician's office so while we have them there, we can now initiate this step and at least give them some piece of mind as to what shape their eyes are in and, if there is an issue, identify it very early in the disease process and get them help," said Hunt.

15 primary care providers in the tri-county region will be taking part in the program to start, with the number nearly doubling over the next few years. 

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