Background: A telemedicine screening initiative was implemented by the Montefiore Health System to improve access to eyecare for a multi-ethnic, at-risk population of diabetic patients in a largely underserved urban community in the Bronx, New York. This retrospective, cross-sectional analysis evaluates the societal benefit and financial sustainability of this program by analyzing both cost and revenue generation based on current standard Medicare reimbursement rates. Methods: Non-mydriatic fundus cameras were placed in collaboration with a vendor in eight outpatient primary care sites throughout the Montefiore Health Care System, and data was collected between June 2014 and July 2016. Fundus photos were electronically transmitted to a central reading center to be systematically reviewed and coded by faculty ophthalmologists, and patients were subsequently scheduled for ophthalmic evaluation based upon a predetermined treatment algorithm. A retrospective chart review of 2251 patients was performed utilizing our electronic medical record system (Epic Systems, Verona WI). Revenue was projected utilizing standard Medicare rates for our region while societal benefit was calculated using quality adjusted life years (QALY). Results: Of the 2251 patient charts reviewed, 791 patients (35.1%) were seen by Montefiore ophthalmologists within a year of the original screening date. Estimated revenue generated by these visits was $276,800, with the majority from the treatment of retinal disease ($208,535), and the remainder from other ophthalmic conditions detected in the fundus photos ($68,265). There was a societal benefit of 14.66 quality adjusted life years (QALYs) with an estimated value of $35,471/QALY. Conclusion: This telemedicine initiative was successful in identifying many patients with diabetic retinopathy and other ophthalmic conditions who may otherwise not have been formally evaluated. Our analysis demonstrates the program to generate a downstream revenue of nearly $280K with a cost benefit below <50% of the threshold of $100,000/QALY, and therefore cost-effective in marginalized communities.
- diabetic retinopathy
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