March 2020


5 tips to better serve diabetes patients in your area

by Vanessa Caceres Contributing Writer

It’s no secret that there’s a scourge of type 2 diabetes affecting the U.S. In fact, there are 30.3 million people living with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about 10% of the overall population. There also are more than 84.1 million people with prediabetes.
Diabetes prevalence is the strongest in an area of Southern states called “the diabetes belt.” The “belt” continues to strain as diabetes diagnoses expand.
With the growth of diabetes, there are more potential cases of diabetic eye disease that require monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment, and that’s where ophthalmologists can take on a more proactive role, said Mary Sue Jacka, MBA.
Expanding your practice to perform regular exams with patients who have diabetes and to catch eye disease earlier has a few benefits. “You’ll have a greater ability to take care of patients before permanent damage occurs,” Ms. Jacka said. Additionally, it can help position your practice as the No. 1 eye referral center for your area’s primary care physicians, as those are the ones often meeting initially with these patients.
Quality improvement programs aimed at better management of patients with diabetes should be a key component of your plan, Ms. Jacka said. That’s because there are quality measures in managed care that focus on ensuring those with diabetes have an annual dilated eye exam to check for disease. If your practice can help to complete these exams—or interpret these images via telemedicine—it can be mutually beneficial for your practice, the primary care practice, and for results with the quality measures in place.
“We are interested in seeing patients, and managed care is interested in improving their Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set score. Together, both entities have healthier results and keep our offices operating at full capacity,” Ms. Jacka said. “Our goal is to meet a patient and take care of that patient for the rest of their life.”

5 pearls to make it work

What is it exactly that ophthalmologists and their practice staff need to do to better serve the growing population of patients with diabetes? Ms. Jacka had a few pearls to share to bring routine care for patients with diabetes to your eye practice.
1. Triage as needed in-house. Ms. Jacka shared the example from her own practice, which includes a fellowship-trained ophthalmologist in retina, a general ophthalmologist, three optometrists, and four ophthalmic physician assistants. “All of our providers see diabetic patients,” she said. “When the patient begins to show any retinopathy, we fast-track that patient to retina, as established patients get first priority, sometimes even that same day.”
2. Get to know your local internal medicine providers. Those are the providers who need to refer patients with diabetes somewhere for an annual eye screening. Even if they have their own technology to take an image annually, they still need to refer out for interpretation or when there are signs of eye damage. Here are a few ways to expand this network with internal medicine providers, according to Ms. Jacka:
• Answer their calls promptly so they know you are available easily and quickly.
• Invite the primary care physician and their staff to your office for a free eye screening so they can see what you do and what the screening technology does.
• Attend networking events with these local providers.
3. Also get to know other health providers who work with diabetes patients. This can include certified diabetes educators, dietitians, social workers, diabetic nurse practitioners, endocrinologists, and podiatrists. These could potentially be cross-referral sources, and building those relationships will once again show your commitment to screening and serving those with diabetes, Ms. Jacka said.
4. Invest in the best fundus photography technology that you can, and share those photos with the referring provider. You want the referring internal medicine providers to know how crisp images are from any technology that you have. “New images that are clear and distinct will reinforce to the primary care provider that ophthalmology has changed drastically even in the last 2 years due to an exponential clarity in our diagnostic equipment,” Ms. Jacka said. She recommends sending the primary care physician a copy of the fundus photo of their patient along with your findings, so he or she can see that you have invested in a system that indicates diabetic retinopathy clearly.
5. Stay in touch with family members of patients with diabetic retinopathy. Remind those family members of the importance of annual eye exams.

About the source

Mary Sue Jacka, MBA

Haik Humble Eye Center
West Monroe, Louisiana

Relevant disclosures

: None



5 tips to better serve diabetes patients in your area 5 tips to better serve diabetes patients in your area
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