More than 4,000 eyecare professionals and clinical support staff have registered with KeepSight, equating to a quarter of all healthcare providers expected to subscribe to the new national diabetes eye screening program.
Strong engagement from the eyecare sector is helping drive momentum behind the initiative – which was officially launched to the public on Sunday – and aims to reach the 630,000 diabetic Australians who are not regularly getting their eyes checked.
Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said he was delighted with the support from eyecare providers to date.
“Already almost a quarter of providers are registered with the program but we are urging all providers to get on board,” he said.
“The eye care sector’s support of the program is critical to its success. By signing up as providers and then registering patients when they have their diabetic eye examinations, eyecare providers will help reduce the overall rates of diabetic eye disease in Australia.”
KeepSight is described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to significantly reduce the rate of diabetes-related vision loss and blindness across Australia. Eyecare providers and patients are encouraged to subscribe to the database, which will send patients regular reminders for diabetes eye examinations.
Approximately 1.3 million Australians have the condition, but it is thought half of them are not booking optometry appointments. This leaves them vulnerable to eye damage that is often identified late, at which point treatment is less effective and costly.
KeepSight has widespread support from leading diabetes and eye health groups and is funded by the Australian Government, Specsavers, Bayer and Novartis. Program partners include Diabetes Australia, Vision 2020 Australia and the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CREA).
CERA deputy director Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden said KeepSight was the missing link in Australia’s diabetes health system, which could one day garner results similar to a program in the UK.
“If we can achieve strong uptake, we will be able to identify who’s engaged in eye checks and who’s not, and potentially identify certain community groups that are missing out. That will enable us to target our health messaging and promotion to those people, because at the moment we don’t know which 50% of Australians with diabetes are engaged and which are not.”
He added: “The thinking behind KeepSight is already proven. The United Kingdom implented a similar program and, for the first time in 50 years, diabetes is no longer the leading cause of blindness in working age adults there. We want to achieve that in Australia.”