New initiative by the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI)

Thanks to a new initiative by the SERI, patients can now just head to an optical store for a screening after seeing their general practitioner (GP), while, previously, they had to fork out at least $70 for a screening by an eye specialist.

Under a new pilot initiative, a patient pays $10 for an eye screening at an optical store. All he has to do is get a $10 voucher from his GP. The remaining cost will be covered by pharmaceutical company Novartis.

Singapore Integrated Diabetic Retinopathy Programme (SiDRP)

SiDRP was established in 2010 to centralise the diagnosis of DR by accredited technicians from the Singapore Advanced Imaging Laboratory for Ocular Research (SAILOR). SiDRP taps on about 30 GPs and 20 optometrists to screen for DR. Another 90 optometrists and GPs, as well as all polyclinics and hospitals, are expected to join the programme by 2015.

Since then, it has screened more than 15,000 patients. In September 2012, SiDRP expanded its outreach by collaborating with Novartis to place special eye cameras at selected optical shops with high human traffic.

Under SiDRP, eye photographs are sent to SAILOR, where trained specialist technicians analyse them and generate a report, usually within an hour. The report is sent to the patient’s GP, who will counsel and refer the patient to a specialist if necessary.

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) screening by eye-research technicians

A recent study by SERI found that, in SiDRP, the same eye-research technicians could detect DR from eye images, sometimes performing better than family doctors at polyclinics. Digital retinal images from 367 diabetic patients were obtained from two polyclinics in March 2009 for the study, and they were graded for the presence or absence of DR by the technicians and polyclinic doctors.

The technicians identified DR in 17 per cent of images, while the polyclinic doctors diagnosed DR in only 12 per cent of the images. The research was published in the November 2012 edition of the Singapore Medical Journal

Diabetic retinopathy screening made cheaper and more convenient

Ms Joi Chua, an optometrist and Director at Eyecare People, said her store has screened about 10 customers under SiDRP. “It’s definitely a good exercise,” she noted. “Now, it’s convenient for customers to do a DR check. It’s a very simple test and, as trained optometrists, we are trained to spot all the symptoms of DR. The idea is to make the test convenient. Our customers won’t have to waste time queuing at clinics.”

Vzion Optique optometrist Chanel Ng said the initiative allows her to add value to her services. “We intend to get a fundus camera (a special eye camera to capture DR and other retina diseases) to help manage more diabetic patients and reduce the workload of polyclinics,” she added.​

​See previous page to learn how diabetic retinopathy ​is diagnosed​.​ ​

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