Purpose: To assess the cost-effectiveness of a telemedicine diabetic retinopathy (DR) screening program in rural Southern India that conducts 1-off screening camps (i.e., screening offered once) in villages and to assess the incremental cost-effectiveness ratios of different screening intervals.
Design: A cost-utility analysis using a Markov model.
Participants: A hypothetical cohort of 1000 rural diabetic patients aged 40 years who had not been previously screened for DR and who were followed over a 25-year period in Chennai, India.
Methods: We interviewed 249 people with diabetes using the time trade-off method to estimate utility values associated with DR. Patient and provider costs of telemedicine screening and hospital-based DR treatment were estimated through interviews with 100 diabetic patients, sampled when attending screening in rural camps (n = 50) or treatment at the base hospital in Chennai (n = 50), and with program and hospital managers. The sensitivity and specificity of the DR screening test were assessed in comparison with diagnosis using a gold standard method for 346 diabetic patients. Other model parameters were derived from the literature. A Markov model was developed in TreeAge Pro 2009 (TreeAge Software Inc, Williamstown, MA) using these data.
Main outcome measures: Cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained from the current teleophthalmology program of 1-off screening in comparison with no screening program and the cost-utility of this program at different screening intervals.
Results: By using the World Health Organization threshold of cost-effectiveness, the current rural teleophthalmology program was cost-effective ($1320 per QALY) compared with no screening from a health provider perspective. Screening intervals of up to a frequency of screening every 2 years also were cost-effective, but annual screening was not (>$3183 per QALY). From a societal perspective, telescreening up to a frequency of once every 5 years was cost-effective, but not more frequently.
Conclusions: From a health provider perspective, a 1-off DR telescreening program is cost-effective compared with no screening in this rural Indian setting. Increasing the frequency of screening up to 2 years also is cost-effective. The results are dependent on the administrative costs of establishing and maintaining screening at regular intervals and on achieving sufficient coverage.
Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Ophthalmology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.