Optomed Plc, Good Shephard Hospital Eye Clinic (GSHEC), and Diabetes Eswatini (the diabetes patient organisation of Eswatini) together with the support of the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) are partnering in a research project with the aim of improving diabetic quality care through strengthening eye and foot screening in Eswatini, Africa.
The International Diabetes Federation estimates a 98% increase in the number of patients diagnosed with diabetes in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2010 and 2030. Eswatini, which is located between South Africa and Mozambique, is also facing a growing problem of diabetes and its associated microvascular complications such as diabetic retinopathy, renal failure, and foot ulcers among its population. Currently, there is no national diabetes registry or systematic screening protocol for diabetic retinopathy or diabetic foot disease in Eswatini and only patients that physically go to the eye clinic are screened for diabetic eye disease. Diabetic eye disease and foot ulcers are not attended to until late in the disease. Therefore, patients currently seen are more likely to already have suffered from visual loss or foot damage. GSHEC is recognised as one of the leaders in Southern Africa in the effort to develop a National Diabetic Screening Programme (DRS). A modern and effective Foot and Eye Screening service in Eswatini would serve as reference for neighboring nations developing similar programmes.
The project “Improving Diabetic quality care through strengthening Retinopathy and Foot screening” has an overall goal of establishing a pilot system for the identification and referral of diabetic retinal and foot complications linked to the non-communicable disease services that can be rolled out across Eswatini.
The project is run and coordinated by the GSHEC team supported by international clinical advisors in diabetic retinopathy and expert members from the WDF. Optomed will provide handheld fundus cameras, a telemedicine solution, and an artificial intelligence (AI) service to support image grading to the project. In addition to this, Optomed is committed to provide training and technical support throughout the project.
Dr. Jonathan Pons, Head of GSH Eye Clinic: “In the midst of a global pandemic, here at last is some relief for Africans living with diabetes. We are proud to be at the leading edge of Screening services and to include a more holistic approach to diabetics, using latest technology. It’s our hope this experience will benefit other National programmes.”
Petri Huhtinen, PhD, Clinical Director Optomed: “We are proud and excited to partner with Dr Pons and his team in this innovative and ambitious project. It will be great to see how Optomed’s solution can help to improve the health of the diabetic population and potentially also create cost-benefit in diabetes-related health expenditure in Eswatini.”