Objective: To determine whether access to color fundus photographs from a patient's previous visit would alter the recommendations rendered to a cohort with diabetic retinopathy. Patients and Methods: One hundred sixty patients with diabetic retinopathy returning for a follow-up visit and who had color fundus photographs obtained at a previous visit were evaluated by trained retina specialists. Their clinical impression and recommendations regarding management of diabetic retinopathy were recorded without reference to previous photographs. Color fundus photographs from the patient's most recent visit were then reviewed and new recommendations with regard to appropriate treatment and follow-up were recorded. Results: In 21% of cases, after reviewing the patient's most recent color fundus photographs, the clinical recommendation changed. In 14% of cases, photographs dearly demonstrated that the patient's condition was stable or improved, resulting in a change from recommending treatment to recommending deferral of treatment. In 4% of cases, photographs clearly demonstrated clinical worsening and the recommendation was changed from observation to treatment. In 3% of cases, review of photographs prompted a change in the recommended follow-up interval. Conclusion: Access to color fundus photographs from a patient's previous visit frequently changed the clinical recommendations made to patients with diabetic retinopathy regarding appropriate treatment and follow-up. Availability of color fundus photographs therefore has implications about quality of care and may affect the cost of care.
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