Screening for diabetic retinopathy with or without a copayment in a randomized controlled trial: Influence of the inverse care law

Jinxiao Lian, Sarah M. McGhee, Rita A. Gangwani, Anthony J. Hedley, Cindy Lo Kuen Lam, Keng Hung Maurice Yap, Wico W. Lai, Daniel Wai Sing Chu, David S H Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To examine whether the inverse care law operates in a screening program for diabetic retinopathy (DR) based on fee for service in Hong Kong. Design: Randomized controlled trial. Participants: All those with type 1 or 2 diabetes from 2 clinics were recruited. Intervention: Diabetic retinopathy screening with a small copayment versus free access in a publicly funded family medicine service. Main Outcome Measures: Uptake of screening and severity of DR detected. Association between these outcome variables and independent variables were determined using multivariate logistic regression models and reported as odds ratios (ORs). Results: After randomization, 1387 subjects in the free group and 1379 subjects in the pay group were eligible for screening, and 94.9% (1316/1387) and 92.6% (1277/1379), respectively, agreed to participate in the study. The offer of screening was accepted by 94.8% (1247/1316) in the free group and 91.2% (1164/1277) in the pay group, and the final uptake ratios were 88.5% (1165/1316) and 82.4% (1052/1277), respectively (Pearson chi = 19.74, P<0.001). Being in the pay group was associated with a lower uptake of screening than being in the free group (OR, 0.59; confidence interval [CI], 0.47-0.74) and a lower detection rate of DR (OR, 0.73; CI, 0.60-0.90) after adjustment for potential confounding factors. Subjects with higher socioeconomic status were more likely to attend screening and had a lower prevalence of DR detected. Conclusions: The inverse care law seems to operate in a preventive intervention when a relatively small copayment is applied. There is a case for making effective preventive services free of charge. Financial Disclosure(s): The author(s) have no proprietary or commercial interest in any materials discussed in this article.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1247-1253
Number of pages7
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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