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Routine eye exams drop significantly among diabetes patients in Ontario
Routine eye exams drop significantly among diabetes patients in Ontario

(January 8, 2013 - Insidermedicine)

From Toronto - Routine eye exams among diabetes patients in Ontario have declined significantly in the past 10 years, according to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Researchers reviewed data on government-funded eye exams in Ontario among diabetes patients aged 40 to 64. They found that eye exam rates started dropping in 2004 from 69% to 57% in 2010. Researchers believe that the decline was due to a major policy change in 2004, when the province started delisting routine eye exams for healthy individuals under 65 years old. The delisting appears to have had an unintended consequence of reducing eye exams for diabetic patientsl—people who are at significant risk of diabetic retinopathy, a leading causes of blindness.We spoke with Dr. Tara Kiran, MD, principal investigator of this study, who offered this insight:

"The delisting of policy for eye exams came into effect in 2004, and right after it came into effect, we found a marked drop in eye exam rates in people with diabetes age 40-64. And ever since then, the rate has remained low. This is important because eye exams are an important component of high quality diabetes care. People with diabetes should have an eye exam every 1 to 2 years to check for damage to the eye caused by diabetes. If untreated, this eye damage can eventually lead to blindness. So overall, our findings suggest that delisting worsens the quality of diabetes care in Ontario, even though the policy was not supposed to affect people with diabetes.

The policy change clearly had some unintended negative consequences. I personally think the government should reconsider and make eye exams universally covered for all. When exams are only covered for certain groups, the messaging can be confusing and it's often the most vulnerable who are most confused and don't get the eye exams that they need. The best way of ensuring that everyone who needs an eye exam gets an eye exam is by having eye exams covered for everyone, regardless of medical condition or age."

 
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