The crossed risk factors of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and leading causes of blindness—including diabetic macular edema (DME) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—present an opportunity for research beneficial to multiple specialties, and strategies that foster collaboration.

In an interview with HCPLive during the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 Virtual Sessions this week, Allen Ho, MD, director of Retina Research at the Wills Eye Hospital, discussed the current “carrot-and-stick methods” designed to keep eye care and primary care providers in close communication.

As he noted, lacking eye exam referrals for a patient with diabetes can result in a penalization. He envisions such standards intersecting with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities coming to aide visual impairment monitoring.

“We tend to communicate in a way that, in an era of digital medicine, I think can improve,” Ho said. “Even detection of diabetic retinopathy, there are AI devices evolving that keep patients from coming for an in-person dilation.”

Ho also stressed the need for better representation from notable advocates and affected celebrities, who could speak to the need for annual examination and disease risk mitigation. The risk factors are well-defined; it’s only a matter of better communication.

“The communication has to occur between the providers, because diabetic retinopathy is impacted by what they eat, how much they exercise, whether or not they smoke, what their blood pressure is, and certainly their A1c levels,” Ho said.


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