Michael P. Ellis, a UC Davis Eye Center resident, was awarded for his study on the cost effectiveness of telemedicine to screen for diabetic eye disease. He was among the top five scholars honored by Ophthalmology Times. He received the award at the 2019 American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in San Francisco.
Ellis and the other winners will have their work published in a supplement of OSLI Retina in 2020. The peer-reviewed journal includes columns and features on managing eye clinics.
Diabetic eye disease
Diabetic eye disease damages the retina, which converts light into signals that the brain processes as images. The disease is a leading cause of blindness. It affects up to 80% of those who have had diabetes for 20 years or more.
Early diagnosis and treatment can decrease the risk of severe vision loss, but less than half of the 29.1 million Americans with diabetes receive yearly eye screenings.
UC Davis eye specialists are working to help pave the way for the use of telemedicine to screen patients.
Potential of telemedicine for eye disorders
Ellis’ study reviewed the costs and revenues of telemedicine, an approach that holds great potential for increasing efficiency and access to care.
One of the challenges in offering tele-ophthalmology involves payment for services. Insurance companies often don’t pay for screening for diabetic eye disease when it’s delivered via telemedicine. As a result, programs struggle. While payments by other means can help to offset costs, there are barriers to collecting this money as well, Ellis said.
Ellis worked on the project with his mentor, Glenn Yiu, associate professor of ophthalmology and vision science at UC Davis. Yiu nominated Ellis for the Ophthalmology Times’ Research Scholar Honoree Program. The training gives fellows and residents the opportunity to share notable research and challenging cases with their peers. It is supported through an unrestricted educational grant from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.