California Optometric Association Helps Diabetes Patients Connect With Health Care

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SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A recent California Health Policy Strategies policy brief finds that the partnership between the California Optometric Association (COA), Anthem Blue Cross Medi-Cal Health Plan, and community health centers throughout California was successful in connecting diabetes patients with comprehensive care. In this partnership, Anthem Blue Cross Medi-Cal Health Plan reached out to its members with a history of diabetes who had not accessed recommended health screenings, and invited them to the Diabetes Day Clinic at a local health center.

The local health centers then used their own staff optometrists or volunteer optometrists from the COA to conduct eye exams, as well as other routine diabetes tests. In total, 172 patients were seen at four clinics held in Fresno, Sacramento and Butte County. Results showed that 31 patients (18 percent) had diabetic retinopathy, a sight-threatening condition in which high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina, and 72 patients (42 percent) showed signs of other serious eye conditions including glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration.

In addition, the brief highlights the ways in which integrating optometrists into primary care can be beneficial for medically vulnerable patients.

COA president Dr. Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD., FAAO, Diplomate ABO, said, “Comprehensive eye exams provide a double benefit in the fight against diabetes; not only are they essential for diabetic patients to preserve their vision, but because eye doctors are often the first to detect early warning signs of diabetes and refer patients to the care they need to manage the disease and prevent complications like blindness and amputations. As diabetes has grown to epidemic proportions in California, optometrists are proud to partner with health plans and community health providers to find innovative ways to expand access to diabetes care that can pay off in lives saved.”