Background: Intravitreal injection of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an established method for treatment of diabetic macular edema (DME); however, to ensure the best possible functional results continuous treatment of patients over a long period with regular control visits are necessary. The adherence of patients to the treatment is of great importance for success.
Methods: In order to make implementation of treatment easier for patients, an internet-based referral platform was established to enable the follow-up examination to be performed by an ophthalmologist using spectal domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) close to the patients place of residence. Based on 50 patients the effectiveness of this cooperative treatment (IT-Cooperation) was compared to 50 patients who were controlled in the treatment center for DME patients over a period of 2 years.
Results: Patients in the IT-Cooperation group received an average of 6.3 injections in the first year of follow-up compared to the lower number of 5.2 injections for patients attending the treatment center. During the second year the average number of injections decreased to 2.7 (IT-Cooperation) and 2.4 (treatment center). Patients of the IT-Cooperation showed an average of 12.0 control visits in contrast to the average number of 9.6 visits (p < 0.01) for patients attending the treatment center in the first year of observation. This difference between the two groups was significant and was confirmed in the second year of follow-up with 8.3 visits in the IT-Cooperation group compared to 4.4 visits in the treatment center group (p < 0.01).
Conclusion: The greater number of follow-up examinations close to the patient's place of residence for the IT-Cooperation group significantly improved the quality of treatment adherence in DME patients; however, intensive exchange of information between the ophthalmologist performing the control examinations and the treatment center where the injections were carried out is mandatory.
Keywords: Collaborative patient care; Intravitreal drug injection; Long-term treatment; Optical coherence tomography; Telemedicine.