Providing seamless care to patients with diabetes

When KeepSight, the Australian-first initiative to help encourage people living with diabetes to have regular eye checks, was officially launched in 2019, Specsavers aimed to register 200,000 patients with diabetes within the first two years.

Amazingly, the 200,000th Specsavers patient to be registered with KeepSight happened on 9 July 2021 at Specsavers Keilor Downs store in Victoria.

In recognition of World Diabetes Day, we speak to the optometrists at the Keilor Downs store who made that milestone registration to understand just how valuable the KeepSight program is, and how they provide seamless care to their patients living with diabetes.

High prevalence of people living with diabetes

The patient demographics of the Keilor Downs store is that of an older age, often retired, and of an immigrant background, with a high prevalence rate of people living with diabetes. The store is also located across from a GP clinic and a pharmacy, both of which the optometry team has spent a lot of time working with to build trust and rapport, developing confidence that referrals to their practice will be well looked after and referred back for collaborative care.

Optometrist Partner Marlene Boulos says, “We know our area has a higher prevalence of people living with diabetes, so it was important for us to build strong relationships with other health care professionals in the area so they had the confidence that referring their patients to us would mean a high level of care. We also know for a lot of our patients, English is a second language, and therefore it was important to us to create an easy, collaborative care support amongst their health care providers.”

The value of KeepSight

To complement this collaboration, the addition of the KeepSight program has provided an extra layer of support, ensuring patients with diabetes are reminded and encouraged to attend regular eye checks.

Optometrist Chamini Wijesundera says, “For those patients with diabetes, the sheer volume of health appointments they need to attend to keep on top of their health means it can be difficult for them to keep track. For some patients, they know they need an annual eye check, yet they may think their glasses and eye sight are fine so they put it to the back of the list.

“However, receiving the KeepSight reminder from a health organisation such as Diabetes Australia reminds them their eye health is incredibly important and they need to have that regular check. Talking with my patients many say how the KeepSight letter is what prompted them to come in as it put their eye health back as a priority.”

Providing care to patients with diabetes

For Chamini, practicing in an area with a high prevalence of people living with diabetes means she has a real interest in diabetic retinopathy and is currently undertaking her PhD in neurophthalmology, where most of her participants for research are stroke patients and with comorbid diabetes.

“As a practice, we have made sure our store operations and processes are built around providing seamless care to patients living with diabetes, such as managing the diary to ensure patients’ time is respected and they aren’t spending half their day in the optometrist’s chair due to late afternoon dilations.”

For Marlene, her family history of diabetes, including her father, means she has an insight into just how important managing health is for these patients.

“I’ve seen patients come in within a 12-month recall who have gone from mild to severe diabetic retinopathy, and if they’d let it continue, if they hadn’t of come in, it could have led to serious vision loss.

“Which is why I’m very proud of the work the team has done in building relationships with our local GP, when we notice a large myopic shift and refer a patient, the GP always considers our diagnosis and it’s usually right. The addition of KeepSight is an extra safety net for us and our patients – receiving a reminder letter from a third party makes eye health important.”

By developing a network of health professionals, registering patients with diabetes to KeepSight, and understanding the needs of patients living with diabetes, the team at Keilor Downs are doing everything they can to help patients living with diabetes manage their eye health and prevent avoidable vision loss.

“Things can change so quickly with diabetic eye disease, it reminds all of us why it is so important to have an annual eye check. So, if we can play a part in helping patients know there is a whole raft of health professionals behind them to support them, then we’re proud to be involved,” says Chamini.