The Internet may play a key part in eye exams for people with diabetes.
Inoveon Corporation, based in Oklahoma City, has developed a digital retinal imaging system that makes use of the Internet. Any doctor or optometrist can use the system, making eye exams more accessible to people with diabetes.
Inoveon’s imaging system was invented at the University of Oklahoma. Optometrists and physicians give patients eye exams and send images of the patients’ retinas to Inoveon over the Internet. Inoveon then looks at the images and sends back an evaluation to the doctors, telling them if patients need further treatment or tests.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 8,000 people with diabetes go blind each year. Although testing for retinopathy has been shown to prevent vision loss, fewer than 40 percent of all people with diabetes have annual retinal evaluations.
Michael Duenas, founding chair and member of the public health disease prevention committee of the AOA, thinks that Inoveon’s system will be useful if it encourages more people with diabetes to get eye exams. However, he warns that the system will not discover glaucoma and cataracts, two eye diseases that also are common in people with diabetes. While optometrists are trained to screen for these diseases, physicians are not.
“The system’s pitfalls can be overcome if it is done in an optometry office,” Duenas says.
Inoveon says it will target the Veterans Administration and Indian Health Service, both of which serve populations with many cases of diabetic retinopathy.