World is seeing something completely unprecedented. With the ongoing Corona Pandemic, and restricted mobility, many things have changed. Children learning from home with online classes, adults working from home and seniors consulting their doctors from home using Telemedicine. All this had been unprecedented! But as the wise men say” Change is the Only Constant”. As a practising Eye Doctor, I have embraced teleconsultation Technology. For me, the purpose is straight forward. I want to be available to my patients.
I frequently get worried calls from my patients and how they are unable to travel for the fear of contracting the corona virus infection. Sometimes it is the fear and sometimes it is the lockdown in their areas. Nevertheless, I think telemedicine is a great boon in times like this.
So, the big question is- what kind of eye problems are amenable to Video based teleconsultation.
Follow-up Eye consultations: Often eye doctors call their patients for follow-ups after prescribing initial treatment for various eye problems like eye irritation, dryness, eye strain, headaches, redness, itching etc. The aim here is to ensure that patient is symptomatically better and modify treatment, should the evaluation demand that. These kinds of patients can easily follow up with their doctors via teleophthalmology. In most cases review is possible through just a video-based consultation.
Follow-ups after surgery- After surgeries like cataract surgery and Lasik surgery, doctors ask their patients to follow up at regular intervals. Unless it was a complicated case, most of these patients can follow up via tele-consult in the initial period.
First time Eye Problems: Issues like eye redness, irritation, stickiness, itching, eye strain etc are suitable for tele-consult. These days a lot of people including children are glued to screens for long hours and this leads to myriad of eye problems. The advantage of tele consult is that doctors can judge the problems and often give the right advice and prescribe the appropriate treatment. And even if doctor does not feel comfortable prescribing after the tele consult, at least as a patient you get to know that you really need to get your eyes examined in person by the eye doctor. So indirectly tele consult is a good triage for deciding which patient is suitable for treatment via tele consult and which patient needs to physically come to the hospital and get examined in person.
Now this also brings home the question- which kinds of eye problems may not be suitable for tele-consult.
- Sudden vision loss: most of the time sudden vision loss is a medical/ surgical emergency and needs a detailed examination by the doctor so that appropriate treatment can be started within the right and in most cases limited time window.
- Eye Injury– Injury to the eye by blunt or sharp objects have a propensity to cause severe damage to the eye. These also needs to be diagnosed and treated at the earliest.
- Sterilization liquid splash in the eye: Sterilizers are made of chemicals which can cause severe damage to the surface of the eye. Often, we need to diagnose the severity and treat accordingly. Very rarely emergency surgery may be required
- Vision related problems: Vision related problems like reduced vision, double vision etc needs an in-person check-up with the eye doctor. Change of glasses, progression of cataract, diabetic retinopathy or any other retina problem- all these can be evaluated by using some examination and diagnostic tools.
- Headache, dizziness along with reduced vision: There are several eye related causes for these. The actual reason can be ascertained only after in person examination.
So, a lot of eye problems are amenable to tele-consult. The biggest advantage is that teleconsultation is not constrained by time, place, or availability. It is a great option for people who live in remote places or those who need a second opinion from the super specialist eye doctors. In most cases, it is easy to get an immediate teleconsultation with an eye doctor. Even in worst possible cases, one gets to know that they need to physically go to their eye doctors.