Purpose: To compare the self-reported management of diabetic retinopathy by general practitioners to the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Guidelines for the Management of Diabetic Retinopathy. Methods: In 1994, a stratified (by urban/rural practice location) sample of 500 general practitioners in Victoria was surveyed in regard to their management of diabetic retinopathy. Following the release of the NHMRC Guidelines for the Management of Diabetic Retinopathy in 1997, these same general practitioners were sent a two-page questionnaire related to their management of diabetic retinopathy. Results: Completed questionnaires were received from 228 general practitioners (59% of original participants). Only 37% (79/216) of the general practitioners reported that they had received a copy of the guidelines. Of the general practitioners who had received the guidelines, 18% (14/79) said that they had not read them at all, while 65% (51/79) had read them partially and 18% (14/79) had read them in their entirety. At follow up, less than half (98/214) of general practitioners reported examining 50% or more of their patients for diabetic retinopathy, compared with 104/214 at baseline. General practitioners who had read the guidelines were more likely to report that not being sure what to do when changes were detected was a minor barrier or was not a barrier to them performing dilated ophthalmoscopy (93% vs 83%, X2(I) = 3.67, P = 0.055). Nearly all of the general practitioners reported that they refer their patients with diabetes to an ophthalmologist or optometrist at least every 2 years of recommended. Seventy-six per cent (170/224) of the general practitioners felt that 70% or more of their patients complied with their instructions to visit an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Conclusion: The NHMRC guidelines for diabetic retinopathy appear to have had a positive effect on some of the attitudes of general practitioners who have read them, but more effort is needed to disseminate the guidelines to all general practitioners and to increase their uptake.
- Diabetic retinopathy
- General practitioners
- Health services research
- Physician's practice patterns
- Practice guidelines