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CVS Now Offering Retinopathy Exams

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CVS Now Offering Retinopathy Exams

CVS Health, the U.S.-based company that operates the CVS Pharmacy chain, has announced that it is now providing retinopathy screening for people with diabetes. This service is done through the company’s MinuteClinic division, a retail clinic provider it purchased in 2006, at which time it offered pregnancy testing, vaccinations, and treatment for strep throat, mono, flu, and bladder, ear, and sinus infections. Since then it has expanded its services to include such things as minor injuries, sleep disorders, skin conditions, birth control, and so on, including screening and monitoring for diabetes and its complications. MinuteClinic has more than 1,200 locations in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Most MinuteClinic locations are within a larger store facility called a HealthHUB, a store format launched in January 2019 that provides preventive screenings and medical counseling and, according to CVS Health, is part of the company’s new focus on outgrowing its retailer roots and becoming a health care provider.

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Retinopathy screening available in all MinuteClinic locations nationwide

According to T. Kevin Morgan, a Philadelphia-based MinuteClinic nurse practitioner who treats patients and trains staff, retinopathy screening is now available in all MinuteClinic locations nationwide. “This service is important,” he said in an interview with Diabetes Self-Management, “because the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control] estimates that barely 50% of people with diabetes are compliant with the recommendation for annual screenings.” Also, he points out, the COVID pandemic has made it more difficult for people to get access to the exam through the traditional way of an ophthalmologist or optometrist. CVS, he says, tries to make it “super convenient.” As he explained, patients are becoming more “tech-savvy” and want convenience and access to care.

The MinuteClinic locations accommodate walk-in patients, says Morgan, but availability depends on how busy the facility is, and most people will make their retinopathy appointments through CVS.com. Before doing the exam, the technician will assess the patient’s diabetes condition in general and determine if they had their blood work done, had a recent HbA1c test and foot exams, or changed their medications. To be eligible for a retinopathy test, their previous retinopathy exam has to be a year or more in the past. Morgan says that most commercial insurance plans will cover the cost of the test. The entire process takes less than 20 minutes and the technician uses a hand-held camera to take an image of both eyes — specifically the retinas, the light-sensitive membranes at the back of the eyeballs.

Morgan says MinuteClinic is staffed by either nurse practitioners or physician assistants and undergo a “robust training process.” MinuteClinics use the Welch Allyn RetinaVue 700 Imager from Hillrom, which is generally considered the most advanced retinal camera on the market (a recent study done in Syracuse, New York, determined the image quality from the RetinaVue was “at least as good as that of a tabletop camera”). The device is a smart camera, which means that it is able to rate the quality of the images (red, yellow, green), which are then entered into the MinuteClinic Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system. MinuteClinic does not evaluate the images but sends them electronically to an ophthalmologist and the results usually come back within 24 hours. If any abnormalities are detected, the patient is referred to a local ophthalmologist.

Because diabetic retinopathy might initially have no signs or symptoms, a yearly retinopathy exam can detect problems before they become serious.

Want to learn more about keeping your eyes healthy with diabetes? Read “Diabetic Eye Exams: What to Know,” “Eating for Better Vision and Healthy Eyes,” and “Keeping Your Eyes Healthy” and watch “Diabetes and Your Eyes.”

Joseph Gustaitis

Joseph Gustaitis

Joseph Gustaitis on social media

A freelance writer and editor based in the Chicago area, Gustaitis has a degree in journalism from Columbia University. He has decades of experience writing about diabetes and related health conditions and interviewing healthcare experts.

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