The Indian Health Service Primary Care-Based Teleophthalmology Program for Diabetic Eye Disease Surveillance and Management.

Research paper by Stephanie J SJ Fonda, Sven-Erik SE Bursell, Drew G DG Lewis, Dawn D Clary, Dara D Shahon, Mark B MB Horton

Indexed on: 02 Feb '20Published on: 01 Feb '20Published in: Telemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association


Historically, fewer than half of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) with diabetes received the annual diabetic retinopathy (DR) examination that is considered the minimum standard of care; this rate is similar to that of the general United States (U.S.) population with diabetes. The Indian Health Service-Joslin Vision Network (IHS-JVN) Teleophthalmology Program in 2000 to increase compliance with DR standards of care among AI/AN through validated, primary care-based telemedicine. The IHS-JVN provides remote diagnosis of DR severity, with a report including management recommendations that is returned to the patient's primary care provider. The program conforms with the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) Practice Guidelines for Ocular Telehealth-Diabetic Retinopathy. The IHS-JVN has been expanding incrementally since the first patients were recruited in 2000; this expansion coincides with large improvements in the annual DR examination rates reported as part of local, regional, and national regulatory compliance under the Government Performance and Results Act. Currently, with 99 clinical implementations in 23 states, IHS-JVN is the largest primary care-based ATA validation category three telemedicine program in the United States. This article describes the program's workflow, imaging and reading technologies, diagnostic protocols, reports to providers, training, quality assurance processes, and geographical distribution. In addition to its clinical use, the program has been utilized in research on utilization of diabetic eye care, cost-effectiveness, technology development, and DR epidemiology of the AI/AN population. Potential next steps for this program are discussed.