Celebrating two years of KeepSight
The national diabetes eye screening program has achieved impressive milestones in its first two years.
In just two years, more than 150,000 Australians with diabetes have registered for the national diabetes eye screening program KeepSight and over 40,000 reminder messages have been sent.
The program’s recall and reminder system is helping to end avoidable vision loss for the 1.7 million Australians with diagnosed diabetes by making it easier for them to have regular eye checks.
The Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) is the program’s research partner and has been closely involved in the initiative since its inception.
CERA’s Deputy Director, Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden, was one of the founders of KeepSight. He says he was motivated to change how Australia manages screening for diabetes related eye disease after working in the UK and seeing the success of their program.
“Advanced diabetes related eye disease is almost a thing of the past there,” he says.
“Within ten years of rolling out the comprehensive screening program in the UK, diabetes fell from the leading cause of avoidable blindness in working-age adults to number three on the list,” he says.
“It was a striking contrast to what I was seeing in the clinic at the Eye and Ear Hospital when I returned to Victoria after working in England. Often patients were presenting for their first eye check with end-stage disease that’s far harder to treat and the outcomes much poorer than if it was caught earlier.”
The path to an Australian program
Associate Professor van Wijngaarden said his first step was to forge a partnership with Diabetes Australia, the national representative organisation for people with diabetes. From there, they collaborated with stakeholders including Vision 2020 Australia and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and Optometry Australia (RANZCO) to design a national program.
“We recognised that the major problem was that only half of Australians with known diabetes were getting their eyes checked at the recommended frequency. There was this big opportunity to mobilise people to get their eyes checked and then engage them in a system that would send them reminders when their next check is due,” he says.
In 2019, KeepSight launched with funding provided by national optometry chain Specsavers and funding support and strong endorsement from the Australian Government for a public private partnership. Funding support has also been provided by other private sector partners.
Accelerating KeepSight’s progress
After the initial launch, Associate Professor van Wijngaarden said the team realised the KeepSight registration process needed to be streamlined to achieve the scale they had envisaged for the program and eventually reach all Australians with diabetes.
“We incorporated KeepSight registration into the electronic medical record of Specsavers. The clinician would get a flag whenever someone with diabetes came in for an eye check and they would then be invited to register for KeepSight,” he says.
“In terms of progress, we found that the registrations increased dramatically once we did that integration. We are committed to working with every optometry provider to achieving similar integration to make the process as simple as possible.”
With registrant numbers expected to exceed 200,000 by mid-2021, the future of KeepSight is looking bright.
2021 and beyond
For Associate Professor van Wijngaarden, the goal is to reach even more people to help end preventable diabetes-related vision loss and blindness.
“Ultimately there are 1.7 million people we’d like to register with KeepSight. We know that the hardest people to get engaged in the program are probably people that have the greatest need,” he says.
“By making sure that firstly we get good coverage of people who are already engaged in eye care, it will enable us to identify who we then need to focus our efforts on,” he says.
KeepSight is also making it even easier for people with diabetes to book in to get their eyes checked.
“The average person with diabetes is making over 180 diabetes-related decisions every day. It can be really challenging,” says Associate Professor van Wijngaarden.
“One of the things we’re doing at KeepSight is offering a ‘find a provider’ service. Through either the website or via SMS communications, people can simply follow a few clicks to find an eye care provider near them,” he says.
As the program continues to grow, Associate Professor van Wijngaarden says they are already seeing early signs of its success.
“We’ll have some proper data analysis coming out soon. But the initial impression is that return eye check visits are substantially higher when people are registered with KeepSight.”
“It shows the reminders are working.”
Participate in KeepSight
If you have diabetes, you can ask your eye care provider to sign you up to the program. Or you can self-register via the KeepSight website.
Health professionals can also register as a KeepSight healthcare provider.