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Implementing teleophthalmology services to improve cost-effectiveness of the national eye care system.

Eye 2024 June 5
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Optometrist-assisted and teleophthalmology-enabled referral pathway (OTRP) for community optometry referrals has the potential to improve the capacity and efficiency of eye care delivery systems through risk stratification and limiting the number of improved referrals. This study investigates the expected future costs and benefits of implementing OTRP under various possible organizational set-ups relevant to a Danish context.

METHODS: A decision-analytic model (decision tree) with a one-year time horizon was constructed to portray alternative future patient referral pathways for people examined in optometry stores for suspected ocular posterior segment eye disease. The main outcomes were total healthcare costs per patient, average waiting time from eye examination in store until the start of treatment or end of referral pathway, and quality-adjusted life-years (QALY) gained. The economic evaluation compares the general ophthalmologist referral pathway (GO-RP) with a potential reimbursement model for the optometrist-assisted teleophthalmology referral pathways (R-OTRP) and a procurement model for the optometrist-assisted teleophthalmology referral pathways (P-OTRP).

RESULTS: The cost per individual with suspected ocular posterior segment eye disease was estimated to be £116 for GO-RP and £75 and £94 for P-OTRP and R-OTRP respectively. The average waiting time for diagnosis or end of referral pathway was 25 weeks for GO-RP and 5.8 and 5.7 for P-OTPR and R-OTPR respectively. QALY gain was 0.15 for P-OTRP/R-OTRP compared to 0.06 for GO-RP.

CONCLUSION: OTRP is effective in reducing unnecessary referrals and waiting times, increasing patients' HRQoL, and decreasing the costs of diagnosing individuals with suspected ocular posterior segment eye disease.

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