Primary care physicians’ knowledge of the ophthalmic effects of diabetes

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    Primary care physicians knowledge of the ophthalmic effectsof diabetesMichael N. Wiggins, MD,* Reid D. Landes, PhD, Swetangi D. Bhaleeya, MD,*Sami H. Uwaydat, MD*





    iecause d'un manque de rfrence de la part des mdecins de soins primaires (MSP). Cette tude vise dterminer la profondeurdes connaissances des MSP concernant la maladie oculaire diabtique.Correspondence to Reid D. Landes, Department of Biostatistics, Uni-versity of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 West Markham Street,From the *Jones Eye Institute, University of Arkansas for MedicalSciences; and Department of Biostatistics, University of Arkansas forMedical Sciences, Little Rock, AR

    Originally received Dec. 8, 2011. Final revision Mar. 14, 2013. AcceptedMar. 26, 2013

    Slot 781, Little Rock, AR 72205-7199;

    Can J Ophthalmol 2013;48:2652680008-4182/13/$-see front matter & 2013 Canadian OphthalmologicalSociety. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    CAN J OPHTHALMOLVOL. 48, NO. 4, AUGUST 2013 265United States among adults 24 to 75 years of age.1

    Blindness from diabetes costs in the United States areapproximately US$500 million annually in lost incomeand associated services.2,3 Primary care physicians (PCPs)are the front-line caregivers for patients with diabetes andare the most important conveyors of information topatients regarding diabetic retinopathy. Therefore, under-standing the ocular manifestations of diabetes and know-ing the screening guidelines can impact the timeliness ofreferrals to ophthalmology by PCPs.4,5 It is well-known toophthalmologists that in proliferative diabetic retinopathy,

    effect on the long-term vision of the patient.6,7 Properlydiagnosing diabetic retinopathy requires a dilated fundusexamination once or more per year. However, studies havereported that only 31% to 65% of patients with diabetesreceive an annual dilated fundus examination.4,814

    Although this low rate is largely speculated to be due topatient misunderstanding and noncompliance, PCP refer-ral to an eye care specialist may also be a factor. Forinstance, Jacques et al.15 reported that only 72% of PCPssurveyed in Pennsylvania routinely refer their patients forvision care. Another study found that among familyDiabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in theNature : valuation transversale.Participants : Quatre-vingt-dix-sept MSP.Mthodes : partir de 8 questions choix multiples, l'on a valu 208 MSP qui assistaient des confrences de formation

    mdicale continue, sur une priode de 3 mois.Rsultats : Quatre-vingt-dix-sept MSP ont complt l'valuation. Les participants avaient une moyenne globale de rsultats de 5,9

    sur une possibilit de 8 (73,8%). Parmi ceux-ci, 81% des rpondants ont rpondu correctement aux questions concernant ledpistage, les constatations cliniques et la prvention. Toutefois, moins de 35% ont rpondu correctement aux questionsconcernant les facteurs de risque et les complications. Il n'y a pas eu de diffrence dans les rsultats concernant le type deformation reue en rsidence ni le nombre d'annes d'exercice.

    Conclusions : Bien que les MSP aient peut-tre besoin de plus de formation concernant les complications et les facteurs de risquede maladie oculaire chez les diabtiques, les participants l'tude ont dmontr un bon et profond savoir gnral concernant lamaladie oculaire diabtique. Ainsi, l'application, selon les rapports prcdents, d'un examen annuel du fond d'il dilat seulement 35% 55% des patients diabtiques, n'tait apparemment pas due un manque de formation mdicale.

    the timing of the laser treatment can have a considerableObjective: Previous studies suggest that many patients with diablack of referrals from primary care physicians (PCPs). This stdiabetic eye disease.

    Design: Cross-sectional assessment.Participants: Ninety-seven PCPs.Methods: An 8-question, multiple-choice assessment was adm

    continuing medical education conferences.Results: Ninety-seven PCPs completed the assessment. Part

    Questions regarding screening, clinical findings, and preventioquestions regarding risk factors and complications were answescores was found based on the type of residency training rec

    Conclusions: Although PCPs may require greater education inparticipants demonstrated a good overall depth of knowledge rto 55% of patients with diabetes receiving an annual dilated fun

    Objet : Les tudes prcdentes suggrent que de nombreux pates do not receive an annual dilated eye examination because of ay aims to determine the depth of knowledge of PCPs regarding

    istered over a 3-month period to 208 PCPs in attendance at

    ipants had a mean total score of 5.9 of 8 possible (73.8%).were answered correctly by 81% of the respondents. However,d correctly by less than 35% of the respondents. No difference inived or the number of years in practice.he complications and risk factors of diabetic eye disease, studygarding diabetic eye disease. Thus, previous reports of only 35%us examination are likely not due to a lack of physician education.

    nts diabtiques n'ont pas d'examen annuel du fond d'il dilat,

  • prevention, or (c) ocular complications and risk factors?(iii) Do any gaps depend on the type of training the PCP

    the type of residency training received, the number ofyears in practice, and the current type of practice. Thisstudy was approved by the institutional review boardat UAMS.The assessment covered 3 topics: screening (Questions

    1, 2, 3, and 5), clinical ndings and prevention methods(Questions 7 and 8), and risk factors and complications(Questions 4 and 6). To address our objectives, wecompared mean totals among different training types with1-factor analysis of variance, between dichotomized yearsof experience with a 2-sample t test, and nally modeled

    in family medicine (FM), with internal medicine (IM)being the next most common 31/97 or 32%). When

    Ophthalmic effects in diabetesWiggins et al.underwent or on the PCPs level of experience? Ouroverarching goals are to detect any deciencies and providedirection for addressing any concerns.


    An 8-question, multiple-choice assessment concerningdiabetes and the eye was created and piloted amongnonphysicians and ophthalmologists at the University ofArkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS; see Appendix 1,available online). Any question answered incorrectly by anophthalmologist or correctly by nonmedical personnel bymore than chance alone was considered to be either poorlyworded or worded in such a way that the answer couldeasily be guessed without knowing the information. Thesequestions were revised and retested or eliminated. Thenalized assessment was administered over a 3-monthperiod to 208 PCPs, composed of academic and com-munity PCPs, as well as primary care resident physicians.Participants were in attendance at primary care targetedcontinuing medical education conferences, noon residentlectures, grand rounds, or faculty meetings at UAMS. Carewas taken to ensure that diabetic eye disease was not alecture topic before the assessment administration. Anadequate amount of time was allowed for participants tocomplete the assessment after distribution. The assess-ments were then immediately collected. Participation wasanonymous, voluntary, and open to all PCPs in attend-practice physicians, only 24% referred their pregnantpatients with preexisting diabetes to an ophthalmologist.16

    This nding occurs at a time when the number of medicalschools requiring an ophthalmology rotation has signi-cantly decreased from 68% in 2000 to 30% in 2004.17,18

    With a minimal level of training and studies suggesting asuboptimal screening pattern, is the amount of educationand awareness concerning diabetic eye disease at issue? Asurvey of Canadian family physicians showed thatalthough 80% were aware of the screening guidelines fortype II diabetes, only 44% knew that diabetic women whobecome pregnant should be screened in the rst trimesterfor retinopathy. Also, only one third of the physiciansknew that diabetic macular edema can present withoutvisual symptoms.19

    Studies regarding awareness of diabetic eye diseaseamong PCPs have been performed in other coun-tries.11,20,21 However, little is known about the depth ofknowledge of U.S.-trained PCPs. Our study attempts tolearn more by asking the following questions: (i) Howmuch do PCPs know about the relationship betweendiabetes and eye care as it pertains to their practice?(ii) Are there gaps in the knowledge of diabetic retinop-athy (a) screening, (b) clinical ndings and methods ofance. The assessment also collected information regarding

    266 CAN J OPHTHALMOLVOL. 48, NO. 4, AUGUST 2013evaluating the effects of training, we considered 3 groups:FM, IM, and all others (12/97 or 12%). Seventy-onerespondents were either community or academic physi-cians, whereas 26 were currently in residency training.Five of the 97 participants did not report years ofexperience; thus, these 5 were excluded from analysesexamining the effects of experience. Excluding the 26

    Table 1Demographics of 97 physician survey participants

    Training n Description of currentpractice

    n Years in practice afterresidency


    FM 54 Primary care 85 In residency 26IM 26 Subspecialist 6 10 16IM/Peds 5 Administrative 2 410 and 20 13Generalinternship

    4 Retired 2 420 and 30 17

    None 3 Not answered 2 430 20Pediatrics 2 Not answered 5EM 2Pathology 1

    FM, family medicine; IM, internal medicine; Peds, pediatrics; EM, emergency medicine.totals with linear regression on years of experience. All testswere 2-sided and conducted with signicance level of0.05. We used SAS/STAT(r) Version 9.2 software (SASInstitute Inc., Cary, NC, USA) for all analyses. Specictesting for internal consistency was not performed becausequestions did not duplicate queries about the same factand were not administered more than once.


    Of the 208 examinations administered, 97 (47%) werereturned before the diabetes lecture. Table 1 containsphysician characteristics of the sample. Of the 97participants, 93 reported training in a primary careresidency, whereas 3 reported no residency trainingavailable in the year of their graduation and 1 reportedtraining in pathology, but practicing as a PCP. Eighty-ve of the 97 participants listed themselves as currentlypracticing primary care medicine, whereas 12 reportedeither being in an administrative role, retired, in asubspecialty, or chose not to answer this question. Ofthe training received, the majority (54/97 or 56%) were

  • Participants had a mean total score of 5.9 (SD 1.0) outof 8 possible (73.8%). The means among the 3 trainingtypes ranged from 6.1 for FM-trained physicians to 5.9 for




    Ophthalmic effects in diabetesWiggins et al.those trained in IM to 5.6 for physicians trained in a eldother than FM or IM, but did not statistically differ(F[2,94] 1.32, p 0.2725). Nor was there compellingevidence that total scores depended on experience,whether dichotomized into more or less than 10 years ofexperience (respective means of 6.0 vs 5.9; t[90] 0.35,p 0.7239) or when experience was treated as acontinuous variable (slope for an increase of 1 year 0.002, t[90] 0.30, p 0.7678). Table 2 containsthe percent of correct answers for each question. Consid-ered individually, questions from the topics of screening(Questions 1, 2, 3, and 5) and clinical ndings andprevention (Questions 7 and 8) were answered correctlyby 81% of the respondents. However, a large decit inknowledge about risk factors and complications (Ques-tions 4 and 6) was clear, with less than 35% of therespondents answering either of these questions correctly.


    Our study set out to learn why many diabetics may notbe getting proper ophthalmic care. Assuming the issuecould be physician education, physician compliance,patient communication, patient compliance, or anotherbarrier, we chose to begin the investigation by looking atphysician education; that is, the depth of knowledge ofPCPs regarding diabetic eye disease. We wanted toresidents (with 0 years experience), the average experi-ence was 23.3 years (SD 13.8 years, n 66). Althoughpractice location data were not addressed on the assess-ment, the type of conference attended (i.e., an academicfaculty meeting vs a community physiciantargetedCME conference) suggested that 47 of the 97 partic-ipants practiced in the community, 36 participants(including 26 residents) were in an academic setting,and 14 could not be determined.

    Table 2Overall survey results of 97 physician participants, by

    S All S co

    Question 1 2 3 5 Count (%) of Correct Responses 86 (89) 89 (92) 79 (81) 94 (97) 63 (6

    S, screening; CF, clinical findings; P, prevention; C, complications; R, risk factors.identify any potential gaps of knowledge and to be ableto make recommendations to address any problemsidentied. To be able to adequately describe decienciesand provide specic recommendations, we broke ourinvestigation down into specic areas in diabetic eye care:(i) screening, (ii) clinical ndings and methods of pre-vention, and (iii) ocular complications and risk factors.Furthermore, we wanted to be able to provide information

    Cregarding which PCPs might need additional education, ifdifferences among PCPs were found.The strengths of our study include a good response rate

    for a study of this design and a good cross section ofphysicians from the community and an academic setting.The sample also had a range of more than 50 years ofexperience. This wide range allowed us to investigate howknowledge might vary with experience. With an overallscore of 73.8%, the PCPs in our study had a good overalldepth of knowledge of diabetic eye disease.We learned that participants scored poorly overall on

    Questions 4 and 6 regarding complications and riskfactors. These ndings suggest that greater education inthese areas may be needed for most PCPs. Alternatively, itis possible that the available choices for these 2 questionscould have inuenced some of the incorrect responses.Questions 4 and 6 contained an item choice of all of theabove. This choice was not the correct answer for eitherquestion. It is possible that the temptation of choosing allof the above was too great for some participants.However, the assessment was well-piloted and did notidentify these 2 items as being confusing or poorly wordedin any way. In addition, physicians are intelligent, well-experienced test takers. It is therefore reasonable toconclude that some participants just did not know theinformation.As our results are taken from physicians in the rural

    southern United States, it is possible that PCPs in otherareas of the country might score differently. However,based on our varied cross section of private practice andacademic physicians of variable experience, our study islikely representative of many PCPs. Another potentialdrawback of our study is the small number of questionsgiven to participants. More assessment items could haveprovided more detailed data. However, as the partici-pants were voluntary and uncompensated, we believe amore labor-intensive assessment would have discouragedparticipation.Given that complications of diabetic eye disease are

    largely preventable when detected early and the largeamounts of resources that are spent annually in the United


    ect CF P CF and P correct C R C and R correct

    7 8 4 6 ) 87 (90) 82 (85) 73 (75) 25 (26) 33 (34) 10 (10)States to care for patients with diabetic complications, fewwould agree that the published reports of less than half ofdiabetic patients receiving adequate annual screening isacceptable. Our ndings reveal that regardless of the typeof primary care training or the number of years ofexperience, PCPs are well educated in regard to diabeticeye disease. If our ndings are generalizable to all PCPs,then the lack of examinations are likely due to an issue

    AN J OPHTHALMOLVOL. 48, NO. 4, AUGUST 2013 267

  • other than physician knowledge. Thus, other avenues ofinvestigation into the cause of this problem, such asexamining physician compliance, patient communication,patient compliance, or other barriers to health care need tobe explored.

    Online-only material: This article includes online material.Appendix 1 can be found on the CJO web site at It is linked to this article inthe online contents of the August 2013 issue.Disclosure: The authors have no proprietary or commercial inte-rest in any materials discussed in this article.Supported By: This work was supported by unrestricted grantsfrom Research to Prevent Blindness and the Pat & WillardWalker Eye Research Center, and also by Award1UL1RR029884 from the National Center for Research

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