A Medical Device Daily

ATLANTA – At the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO; San Francisco) annual meeting held at the World Congress Center here, researchers from University Hospital (Liverpool, UK) reported on a survey that looked at how the practice of fasting, common to the world's seven major religions, may affect patient compliance with treatment for glaucoma and other eye diseases.

Many of the world's religions practice obligatory or voluntary fasting — abstaining from food and often also fluid — during periods that can last from a few days to more than a month, on an annual basis.

AAO noted that increasingly, ophthalmologists in the U.S. and other countries care for patients of diverse backgrounds. "This is accelerating the need for reliable information on the interaction of religious beliefs and compliance with prescribed treatments."

The effectiveness of glaucoma treatment, in particular, often depends on patients' ability and willingness to self-administer eye drop medications on a regular schedule over months or years. Glaucoma patients often notice no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, which poses challenges for physicians in motivating patients to stick to treatment regimens. If patients neglect treatment until their vision noticeably declines, the damage often is irreversible.

Researchers led by Nishant Kumar, of the University Hospital (Liverpool, UK), studied patient compliance in relation to fasting by analyzing 350 surveys completed by members of the worlds' major faiths: Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity, Judaism, Bahai, and Buddhism (50 surveys per religion).

The researchers believe it is the first study of its kind.

Population reports show that roughly 20% of the world's people are Muslim and about 15% are Hindu, with fasting being of importance to both religions. It is mandatory during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan for Muslims; for Hindus fasting is generally voluntary.

Kumar's team previously surveyed Muslim patients on their use of prescribed eye drops during Ramadan and concluded that treatment compliance was significantly reduced in patients who kept the fast. If patients reduced or stopped their glaucoma treatment for an extended period, such as the month of Ramadan or other continuous fasting periods, their vision could be adversely affected.

In the new survey, the majority of patients self-identified as Hindus, Muslims and Jains stated that the use of eye drops during their fasting hours would break their fast, and therefore they would not use drops while fasting.

Those patient groups said they would be more likely to use drops while fasting for painful eye conditions or if vision was affected.

The majority of Christian, Buddhist, Bahai and Jewish survey respondents did not believe that using drops would break their fasts, and said they would use eye drops during their fasting periods.

Kumar said, "A broad awareness among ophthalmologists regarding the religious beliefs of the patient groups they treat will allow them to formulate management plans in keeping with these beliefs without compromising care."

Also at AAO:

Digital imaging company Ophthalmic Imaging Systems (OIS; Sacramento, California) launched seven new software solutions.

CEO Gil Allon said, "The AAO meeting provides an ideal opportunity to showcase our new and innovative products to customers. With the introduction of these seven new product offerings, we continue to raise the bar for digital imaging and informatics solutions in ophthalmology. We believe that these solutions will serve as a key component of our strategy to gain market share and return OIS to achieving consistent sales growth."

The seven new products introduced at the conference include:

— OIS EMR (Electronic Medical Records), which combines a technologically advanced system architecture and what OIS termed "unsurpassed integration with OIS Symphony Image Management."

— OIS PM (Practice Management), which allows medical professionals to efficiently and accurately manage every aspect of a patient visit — from the scheduling of the appointment to the final payment. Integrated with OIS EMR, the program "dramatically improves the efficiency and quality of care provided by ophthalmic practices."

— Symphony Web, which delivers image and diagnostic review features to any Internet connection via Internet Explorer; it seamlessly integrates with existing installations, allowing users access to images and reports from their database.

— Symphony Draw, which allows users to make drawings using freehand techniques or pre-made stamps to document findings. Through integration with existing platforms, Symphony Draw is launched from either the patient's medical record or as the diagnostic images are reviewed, eliminating the need to re-enter patient information.

— Symphony Link, a vendor-independent back-end application that links the OIS Symphony Review applications with other diagnostic devices within the clinic. With a single click, users can navigate directly from a patient's record within OIS Symphony to the same record in the native viewing software of many popular diagnostic devices.

— PerfectView, which allows users to compare multiple images from multiple dates, using a user-definable and controllable spot to compare changes. OIS said glaucoma specialists can track changes to the optic nerve head by layering images from different dates in order to view disease progression.

— FAF Super-Resolution, which combines multiple Fundus Autofluorescence (FAF) images together to produce a single image with detail and clarity.

The AAO meeting, held in conjunction with the European Society of Ophthalmology, drew about 22,000 attendees. Preliminary figures for attendance at the Subspecialty Day events held on Nov. 7 and 8 also were strong, AAO said, totaling more than 6,200.

Among the offerings at the overall meeting were 277 instruction courses, 79 "Breakfast with the Expert" roundtables, 95 skills transfer courses and more than 100 hours of free scientific sessions.

The keynote address for the meeting was delivered by Harvey Fineberg, MD, PhD, president of the Institute of Medicine (Washington). In his address, "Seeing the Future of Health Care," Fineberg said America is facing a demographic transition that will significantly increase the demand for care, particularly ophthalmic care.

"Ophthalmology is in the crosshairs of this demographic transition and the demand for services and cost of healthcare in the U.S.," he said. The key, he said, is to "relentlessly focus on increasing the value of what we do for patients — a combination of improving performance and outcomes and decreasing costs. Getting more for every dollar spent."