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Upstate data shows many skip diabetic retinal exams

Thirty-nine percent of Univera Healthcare commercial members living with diabetes are at risk for eye disease and blindness because they aren’t getting their recommended annual diabetic retinal exams, according to a review of claims data by the regional health insurer.

“Assuming our commercial member data is a representative sample of the 39 county upstate population, we estimate that about 216,000 out of the 540,000 people with diabetes in the region are not getting the annual eye exam that could save them from damaging their vision or losing their sight,” said Dr. Richard Vienne, Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer.

Sixty-one percent of Univera commercial members with diabetes get their annual eye exams, which is higher than the national average of 55 percent. Vienne said in a news release that while that’s good news, it falls short of the 69 percent screening goal established by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

In Western New York, Chautauqua County’s diabetic population is at the highest risk for vision problems, according to the review. When it comes to annual diabetic retinal exams, the county performs in the bottom 25th percentile in the nation, with 40 to 54 percent of the county’s 12,500 adults with diabetes getting their annual screenings. Univera has committed $130,000 over the next three years to the Chautauqua County Health Network’s Tele-Retinal Diabetic Eye Exam Project.

Tele-retinal imaging is the chosen strategy to increase vision screening rates and reduce visual impairment and blindness. The project goal is to increase the rate of completed annual diabetic eye exams in Chautauqua County by 30 percent in three years by placing retinal screening machines in 11 primary care practices that operate 19 practice sites.

Univera Healtcare graphic.

See the Univera infographic, “Do you take charge of your diabetes?” here. For more information, visit


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