Objective: To determine, from the health insurer's perspective, the cost of preventing vision loss in patients with diabetes mellitus through ophthalmologic screening and treatment and to calculate the cost-effectiveness of these interventions as compared with that of other medical interventions.
Design: Computer modeling, incorporating data from population-based epidemiologic studies and multicenter clinical trials. Monte Carlo simulation was used, combined with sensitivity analysis and present value analysis of cost savings.
Results: Screening and treatment of eye disease in patients with diabetes mellitus costs $3190 per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) saved. This average cost is a weighted average (based on prevalence of disease) of the cost-effectiveness of detecting and treating diabetic eye disease in those with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus ($1996 per QALY), those with non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) who use insulin for glycemic control ($2933 per QALY), and those with NIDDM who do not use insulin for glycemic control ($3530 per QALY).
Conclusions: Our analysis indicates that prevention programs aimed at improving eye care for diabetic persons not only result in substantial federal budgetary savings but are highly cost-effective health investments for society. Ophthalmologic screening for diabetic persons is more cost-effective than many routinely provided health interventions. Because diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among working-age Americans, these results support the widespread use of screening and treatment for diabetic eye disease.