Earlier this month, the 22nd annual meeting of the European Society of Retinal Specialists (Euretina) was held in Hamburg Germany, bringing together colleagues face-to-face for the first time in two years. The congress attracts thousands of delegates from around the world to share scientific expertise and the newest evidence and opportunities in the retinal specialty.
The DR Barometer had the unique and unprecedented opportunity to share the Program with congress participants and advance our work through dialogue with leaders in the field. The Retinal Communities Pavilion, staged in the Exhibition Hall of the congress, showcased the work of the DR Barometer and partners including the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), the Vision Academy, and sister program, the nAMD Barometer. Amid the Exhibition Hall, amongst a sea of booths showcasing products and medical technologies, the Retinal Communities Pavilion offered something different, instead bringing attention to the work of these Programs and patient voices to the forefront.
As the Secretariat for the DR Barometer, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the congress, in addition to representing the International Federation on Ageing. Every morning I weaved through the booths, coffee in tow, and a renewed energy to shake hands, make introductions, and share the DR Barometer, pointing to pages of work, images on the Pavilion walls and passing around leaflets that described the Program.
The Pavilion quickly became a space to interact with colleagues new and old, a global platform and point of connection to improve patient-centered care and understand the real-world experiences of patients with diabetic retinopathy and their providers, a physical incarnation of the mission of the DR Barometer.
Representatives at the Pavilion created a positive and welcoming environment to learn from each other, and visitors echoed the importance of this work, leaving a renewed sense of purpose and connection to its overall aims – understanding patient and provider experiences, improving patient outcomes, and addressing barriers to care.
Making the Connection Globally
In addition to hosting the Retinal Communities Pavilion, the Euretina Congress provided the opportunity to meet with colleagues from around the world involved in the DR Barometer Program as ambassadors in their countries.
Ambassadors shared their experiences with their patients and in their clinics responding to countless questions (“how many patients do you see with diabetes? how do they get to your clinic? how do you persuade them to start treatment and continue treatment?”). They shared their real experiences with patients, their values, and the ways they try to improve care.
Many retinal specialists spoke about the multi-factorial aspect of the disease, meaning it’s not enough to just focus on the eye. There is a need to see beyond the eye and create an environment where patients receive coordinated care to manage their diabetes and adequate education on the vision-related complications of their diabetes.
Their accounts of treating patients highlight the challenges and potential solutions to improving care for those with DR and DME, some country-specific but some universal. These experiences bring purpose to the work of the DR Barometer and inform the initiatives that will address barriers to care and seek to improve policy and practice. The DR Barometer is built on conversations and connections like these, which will drive continued momentum to progress the work of the DR Barometer, always with the mission of improving patient care in the real world.
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