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Patient-centered diabetes eye care at UMass Memorial

Establishing open access and convenient annual eye exams

Date Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2019

Juan Ding, OD, PhD, optometrist at UMass Memorial Eye Center, led a project to establish a convenient optometry clinic aimed at providing better eyecare for patients within the Diabetes Center of Excellence (DCOE).  From a non-existing service, she developed a 5-day a week clinic that provides easy access to comprehensive eye exams for our adult and pediatric patients.  It’s located within the Ambulatory Care Center (ACC), at the UMass Memorial University Campus, which is home to the UMass DCOE.

“Diabetic retinopathy is common among people living with diabetes,” said David Harlan, MD, Director of the UMass DCOE. ”It’s caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina and is the leading cause of blindness in American adults.”

Annual eye exams are recommended, however nationally, only 30% of patients are compliant. The compliance rate within UMass Memorial was 22% prior to the start of this project. 

The initial idea was to provide immediate eye care to our patients with diabetes, making it “one stop shopping” for them while they’re already on campus for their diabetes related appointments.

Within a year, patient volume steadily increased from nearly nothing, to more than 300 people being seen each month.   No appointment is necessary to receive an eye exam.

“This new clinic significantly improved the compliance of our diabetic patients with their annual eye exams,” said Dr. Ding.  “People are highly satisfied with the clinic.  In a recent survey, 100% of patients said they would recommend it to their family or friends.”

The preliminary data obtained from this project and study has been accepted for presentation at the 2019 meeting of the American Optometric Association.   Since September 2018 the no-show rate at their clinic was 8.5%, markedly lower than that for the same providers at the UMass Memorial Hahnemann campus (~ 25%).  14% of people who received eye exams were referred to specialists for diabetic retinopathy.

This was the first study to show that patient-centered diabetic eye care providing convenient access, decreases no-show rates and improves compliance with annual diabetic eye exams, allowing early detection of diabetic eye diseases, and increased patient satisfaction. 

Dr. Ding was awarded an “Excellence in Science Award” for her work on this successful project, at the 2019 UMass DCOE Diabetes Day.  The project was part of the Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  Manisha Anand, a certified ophthalmic assistant (COA), at the Eye Center, assisted with the project as part of earning her Lean Green Belt. 

For more information, contact the Eye Center at (508) 334-6855.

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