By Krista Lamb
In February, BMJ Open Ophthalmology published a paper by Diabetes Action Canada researchers: Diagnostic accuracy of teleretinal screening for detection of diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis
The paper, which looks at the diagnostic accuracy of teleretinal screening for the detection of diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (two of the most common retinal diseases seen in most North American clinical practice), was part of a research project led by Dr. Tina Felfeli. Dr. Felfeli is a resident physician in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences at the University of Toronto, and a PhD student in Clinical Epidemiology at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto as a part of the Integrated Physician-Scientist program.
The research team found that teleretinal screening is highly accurate for detecting diabetic retinopathy, while this type of screening for age-related macular degeneration is promising but needs more research.
This project was a systematic review of the published research on this topic and a meta-analysis, which means the team comprehensively examined of all the relevant literature available to see if there were overall messages and conclusions that could be drawn. They also evaluated the quality of the studies and looked at the ways in which the research should be interpreted. These types of studies, Felfeli explains, “serve as an overarching guide and summary of all the evidence we have available to date, and they can really inform decisions and guide future research by identifying gaps in the literature, or gaps in the research that is available so that future studies can be conducted in a better manner.”
Teleretinal screening has been a focus for Diabetes Action Canada’s research teams, as it offers a cost-effective way to increase access to eye screening for those with diabetes. Traditionally, eye screening is done in the office of an eye care provider, but access remains a barrier for many—especially those in remote communities or from marginalized groups. Teleretinal screening uses technology to check the eyes of patients remotely, and then those who show signs of diabetic retinopathy can be referred to a specialist.
Felfeli’s team looked at 28 articles published between 2010 to 2021, which showed great promise for teleretinal screening for diabetic retinopathy in particular. This was encouraging, as was the ability to share this information with more people in an open access journal. “We really wanted patients, clinicians and scientists to have zero barriers to being able to benefit from this data. Having Diabetes Action Canada as our collaborator really opened up the opportunity for us to have the funding to be able to make this data and this really important information available publicly.”