Cost-effectiveness of alternative methods for diabetic retinopathy screening

Diabetes Care. 1992 Oct;15(10):1369-77. doi: 10.2337/diacare.15.10.1369.

Abstract

Objective: To assess from the perspectives of a government delivery system and patients, the cost-effectiveness of the 45-degrees retinal camera compared to the standard ophthalmologist's exam and an ophthalmic exam by a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner technician, for detecting nonproliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Research design and methods: Comparison of 45-degrees fundus photographs with and without pharmacological pupil dilation taken by technicians and interpreted by experts, direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy by ophthalmologists, and direct ophthalmoscopy by technicians with seven-field stereoscopic fundus photography (reference standard). Costs were estimated from market prices and actual resource use. The study included 352 patients attending outpatient diabetes and general-medicine clinics at VA and DOD facilities.

Results: Medical system costs per true positive were: 45-degrees photos with dilation, $295; 45-degrees photos without dilation, $378; ophthalmologist, $390; and technician, $794. Patient costs per true positive were: 45-degrees photos with dilation, $139; 45-degrees photos without dilation, $171; ophthalmologist, $306; and technician, $1009. Cost-effectiveness is sensitive to program size due to high fixed cost of the camera methods but not to prevalence. Cost-effectiveness of the technician exam is strongly affected by its sensitivity.

Conclusions: Primary-care screening with retinal photographs through pharmacologically dilated pupils for diabetic retinopathy is an appropriate and cost-effective alternative to screening by an ophthalmologist in this setting. Ophthalmologists are scarce, primary-care physicians are extremely busy, and large clinics allow fixed equipment costs to be spread across many patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / diagnosis
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / economics
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / prevention & control*
  • Ethnicity
  • Fluorescein Angiography / economics
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States