Individual risk assessment and information technology to optimise screening frequency for diabetic retinopathy

Diabetologia. 2011 Oct;54(10):2525-32. doi: 10.1007/s00125-011-2257-7. Epub 2011 Jul 27.


Aims/hypothesis: The aim of this study was to reduce the frequency of diabetic eye-screening visits, while maintaining safety, by using information technology and individualised risk assessment to determine screening intervals.

Methods: A mathematical algorithm was created based on epidemiological data on risk factors for diabetic retinopathy. Through a website, , the algorithm receives clinical data, including type and duration of diabetes, HbA(1c) or mean blood glucose, blood pressure and the presence and grade of retinopathy. These data are used to calculate risk for sight-threatening retinopathy for each individual's worse eye over time. A risk margin is defined and the algorithm recommends the screening interval for each patient with standardised risk of developing sight-threatening retinopathy (STR) within the screening interval. We set the risk margin so that the same number of patients develop STR within the screening interval with either fixed annual screening or our individualised screening system. The database for diabetic retinopathy at the Department of Ophthalmology, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, was used to empirically test the efficacy of the algorithm. Clinical data exist for 5,199 patients for 20 years and this allows testing of the algorithm in a prospective manner.

Results: In the Danish diabetes database, the algorithm recommends screening intervals ranging from 6 to 60 months with a mean of 29 months. This is 59% fewer visits than with fixed annual screening. This amounts to 41 annual visits per 100 patients.

Conclusion: Information technology based on epidemiological data may facilitate individualised determination of screening intervals for diabetic eye disease. Empirical testing suggests that this approach may be less expensive than conventional annual screening, while not compromising safety. The algorithm determines individual risk and the screening interval is individually determined based on each person's risk profile. The algorithm has potential to save on healthcare resources and patients' working hours by reducing the number of screening visits for an ever increasing number of diabetic patients in the world.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / diagnosis*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Risk Assessment / methods*