Blog By Ivan J. Srut, O.D.
Chief of Optometry for St. Hope Foundation
In 2020 we have seen our world affected in a way many of us have never seen before. A virus, Covid-19, has caused thousands of deaths worldwide, and has left a lot of uncertainty in many of our minds…will we ever be as safe as we were before the whole pandemic began?! How will people be able to see their doctors, including eye doctors? For doctors there have already been a large number of telemedicine platforms introduced, and I am happy to say that Optometry has also been making strides in this area for a few years now, with Tele-Optometry!
Tele-Optometry is a way to do eye examinations where the patient and the doctor are not in the same room! It can be done with video conferencing, and technology! There are a few different platforms out there at the moment, so let me describe a few of them for you.
DigitalOptometrics is a system in which a patient goes to a participating location office. There they will enter their medical and optical history on a digital tablet. A technician then does preliminary testing such as eye pressure, visual fields and photographs. When complete, a refraction of the patient is done remotely by a refracting technician. All of the results and photographs are sent to an optometrist which is not on site, and the optometrist appears on a video monitor. If necessary the optometrist will first refine the eyewear prescription. Once this is finished the optometrist will discuss the results with the patient and give the patient any prescriptions needed, medical or optical.
20/20 Now is almost exactly the same as the DigitalOptometrics system, with all of the steps done in the same order and way.
In February of 2020, Dr. Chad Overman appeared on OptometryTV to discuss the use of tele-optometry with artificial intelligence. He stated that once retinal pictures are taken and matched up with artificial intelligence, the program actually helps to circle small bleeds in the retina that a doctor could possibly miss, or just to be an aide to point them out for future comparisons. Exciting stuff!
Eyecare Live is a system that is meant to enhance a doctor’s(both optometrist and ophthalmologist) existing practice. It is more of a supplement to the practice vs a replacement of it. It enables patients to upload pictures and videos, and uses advanced analytics so that doctors can track changes to the patient’s eye health easier over time.
Icare, a company that has developed tonometers, has also developed one for patients to check their own eye pressure at home! This is such a useful tool for glaucoma patients or any patient that needs to have eye pressure tracked. The doctor can communicate with the patient through allowable means(Skype, Facetime, etc) and discuss these pressure results with the patient without the patient having to come into the office. If additional testing needs to be done the patient would be instructed to come into the office, unless a more complete tele-optometry system was being used as mentioned above.
Some advanced technology is being worked on where the doctor can actually do the photos from their remote location to view the anterior structures of the eye, and the retina. Covid-19 has shown people that there is a need to be able to care for people without being in the same place, to minimize exposure to a virus like it. Tele-optometry is also useful for those people that live in remote areas, far from eye care, or people that have a hard time getting to appointments due to health, or lack of transportation. I will blog more advances as I hear about them.
Until next time…