Barriers for the Implementation of Diabetes-related Eye Screening Programmes

Barriers for the Implementation of Diabetes-related Eye Screening Programmes

There is strong evidence from high-resource countries, such as the United Kingdom, United States, and Iceland that systematic screening for, and treatment of sight-threatening diabetes-related retinopathy is both effective and cost-effective, compared with no screening, in terms of cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) gained and sight years saved.[15-18] However, the implementation of screening programmes that reach all people living with diabetes remains a challenge, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. A summary of the main barriers to implementation of widespread screening is provided below [19-21]:

  • Shortage of trained eye care professionals to perform screening 
  • Lack of access/funding to equipment for screening, or inability to refer people living with diabetes for diabetes-related retinopathy treatment
  • Unequal distribution of eye care resources between rural and urban areas 
  • Lack of epidemiological data relating to the number of people in the population living with diabetes and diabetes-related retinopathy within the population (also referred to as the ‘prevalence’). 
    • The creation of registries for people living with diabetes is important in order to identify the target population for diabetes-related retinopathy screening and to estimate the amount of healthcare and financial resources required to implement the screening programme
  • Lack of country-specific data relating to the economic costs of vision loss due to diabetes-related retinopathy, and the potential cost-savings of early detection through population-based screening
  • Organisational issues, including absence of clear management guidelines or clinical care pathways for people living with diabetes and diabetes-related retinopathy
    • A lack of clearly defined care pathways can make it difficult to define national screening policies, or design and implement screening programmes 
    • Organisational issues as a barrier are not just limited to low- and medium-income countries; systematic screening programmes can also be difficult to implement in resource-rich countries that have mixed public and private insurance-based health care, due to the lack of a public health system ensuring universal funding and coverage for screening