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From 2010 to 2050, the number of Americans with diabetic retinopathy is expected to nearly double, from 7.7 million to 14.6 million.”  National Eye Institute

People with diabetes are at greater risk than most of developing eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy (the leading cause of blindness in American adults).  Nearly half of type 1 and type 2 diabetics already have diabetic retinopathy in some stage, sometimes with no evident symptoms. As early detection and treatment of eye disease is often key to preventing vision loss, experts strongly recommend that both type 1 and type 2 diabetics get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at least once a year. 

But in a state where more than half the population resides in rural areas, many West Virginians find that easy access to this routine eye care is not always a reality.

The physicians and surgeons of the WVAEPS recognize the huge obstacle this presents for their patients and recommend telemedicine as a viable opportunity to increase patient access and diagnosis.

 

Our mission is to eventually establish a state-wide capability to identify every adult with one of the major causes of visual impairment (diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts). 

Initially, diabetic retinopathy is our focus; the need is so great and the technology is already available to make this a success.  Three new sites in different models of care are being added in partnership with the West Virginia Practice-Based Research Network: Valley Health Care (Huntington), Harpers Ferry Family Medicine, and St Joseph Hospital (Buckhannon).  By bringing these primary care partners together now, we’ll be ready to establish a state-wide network when the opportunity arises.

The cooperation of the WVU Eye Institute, Marshall University and the West Virginia Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons ensures access to ophthalmic care.

 Currently, West Virginia Medicaid does not cover this service, but as part of our advocacy efforts, the WVAEPS is working on this initiative, recognizing the importance of this telemedicine service to the people of West Virginia.

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