New QResearch tool helps GPs identify diabetes patients most at risk of blindness and amputation

12 Nov 2015

Researchers have developed a new risk tool to help GPs speed up the identification and treatment of diabetic patients at most risk of blindness and amputation.

The QDiabetes (amputation and blindness) algorithm has been shown to successfully identify people most likely to develop two of the most serious complications of diabetes at an early stage by ‘red flagging’ combinations of information from patients and their medical records.

The algorithm was developed using anonymised patient data from the QResearch database (www.qresearch.org )  – a not-for-profit partnership between the University of Nottingham and leading healthcare IT provider EMIS Health.

“To our knowledge, these are the first tools for predicting the 10 year risk of both blindness and amputation”

Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox, director of ClinRisk Ltd

Research published in The BMJ shows that the new risk prediction models “can help to provide the basis of a more individualized and holistic method of tackling these complications in patients”.

The report’s authors say the tools “are one example of the value of the data held by the NHS in its electronic medical records and administrative databases”.

The tools “have great potential to improve NHS clinical care as well as giving patients information to help them make better decisions about their own health,” they add.

The tools are based on variables that patients are likely to know, or that are routinely recorded in general practice computer systems.

The research was led by Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox, from the University’s division of primary care and director of medical software company ClinRisk Ltd which produced the software.

She said: “To our knowledge, these are the first tools for predicting the 10 year risk of both blindness and amputation, two of the complications that most concern patients with diabetes and affect quality of life.

“We are grateful for the continuing support of the EMIS Health GP practices that contribute their high quality data to QResearch. Our research would not be possible without them.”

A simple web calculator has been produced that doctors and patients can use to determine the 10 year risk of amputation and blindness.

Diabetic eye disease is now the second most common cause of blindness in people of working age in the United Kingdom, while more than 7,000 diabetes-related amputations take place annually in England.

QDiabetes (amputation and blindness) has been developed for the UK population, and is intended for use in the UK though could be used internationally subject to local validation.