Upon assessing the cost-effectiveness of the Toronto tele-retina pilot screening program in comparison with standard diabetic retinopathy screening for patients with diabetes, Canadian researchers found that tele-retina is more cost-effective in urban and rural under-screened communities.1

Earlier studies already found the pilot remote screening program helped reach many patients who had never seen an eye care provider, 37% of the screened individuals; it also led to 27% of the screened patients being diagnosed with DR.2

This simulated study compared tele-retina with the standard of care in the pilot and Pan-Ontarian cohorts and assessed cost-effectiveness, defined as cost per case detected and cost per case correctly diagnosed.

The team discovered that each tele-retina screening cost $95.77, while in-person screenings averaged $137.56. When they looked at the cost for each case that was correctly diagnosed, they found the tele-retina program cost $109.29 per case compared with $315.22 for the standard in-person screening.

The team’s analysis shows that the tele-retina program would help diagnose an additional 249 cases compared with in-person screening, and cost less doing it.

The more effective and less costly option remains a dominant strategy “for urban and rural individuals with diabetes at risk for remaining underscreened for diabetic retinopathy,” the study concludes.

1. Stanimirovic A, Francis T, Shahid N, et al. Tele-retina screening of diabetic retinopathy among at-risk populations: an economic analysis. Can J Ophthalmol. August 10, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].

2. Felfeli T, Alon R, Merritt R, Brent MH. Toronto tele-retinal screening program for detection of diabetic retinopathy and macular edema. Can J Ophthalmol. 2019;54:203–11.