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angle-left Univera grant to boost diabetic retinal screening rates in Chautauqua County

Univera grant to boost diabetic retinal screening rates in Chautauqua County

For Immediate Release:  2018-03-20

Contact:  Olivia Belter, 716-857-6312

Univera Healthcare has committed $130,000 over the next three years to fund a community health initiative to make it easier for individuals with diabetes to get their recommended diabetic retinal eye exam. Univera has an office on West Third Street in Jamestown.

“Diabetes is a serious health condition where the body does not produce or properly use insulin to digest sugar (glucose),” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer. “Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage many parts of the body, including blood vessels and nerves in the eye. This damage can lead to diabetic eye disease and can result in blindness.”

Patients with diabetic retinopathy have a 95 percent chance of keeping their vision if they receive treatment before the retina is severely damaged, which is why regular screening is so important.

The three year project that Univera is funding, Tele-Retinal Diabetic Eye Exam Project (DEEP), will be overseen by the Chautauqua County Health Network (CCHN). “We are pleased that Univera will provide the funding necessary for us to coordinate efforts with providers in the region to improve diabetic eye screening rates,” said Chautauqua County Health Network, executive director, Ann Abdella.

Chautauqua County performs in the bottom 25th percentile in the nation with it comes to annual diabetic eye screenings. Just 40-to-54 percent of the 12,500 adults in Chautauqua County who are living with diabetes are getting the recommended diabetic eye screenings. The goal of the project is to increase the network-wide rate of completed annual diabetic eye exams by 30 percent in three years by building capacity to provide high quality retinal eye scans in the primary care setting.

“The addition of the grant funded screening machine will eventually help to boost Chautauqua County’s diabetic retinal screening rates to the 74 percent combined average of eight counties of Western New York,” said Robert Berke, M.D., a practice partner at Chautauqua Family Health Services, whose practice invested in a diabetic eye screening machine.

It is anticipated that through this project there will be a total of 11 participating adult serving primary care practices (PCPs) building capacity to facilitate retinal eye exams across 19 practice sites. Through these sites, CCHN will be working with a total of 38 physicians.

Tele-retinal imaging is the chosen strategy to increase vision screening rates and reduce visual impairment and blindness.

Program objectives:

  • Expand the integrated provider network to include 20 eye care specialists
  • Improve patient awareness and adherence
  • Facilitate timely treatment


  • Train 11 primary care teams in the use of retinal scanning technology
  • Design and facilitate eye exam workflows
  • Increase referral, data exchange, and report transactions among providers
  • Track utilization and outcomes
  • Evaluate cost benefits
  • Educate patients and professionals

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