Implementing Teleophthalmology in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

To maintain the continuity of care during the unprecedented and sudden change in practice patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teleophthalmology was rapidly implemented at Duke Eye Center in late March 2020. Duke ophthalmology faculty Dilraj Grewal, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology and Divakar Gupta, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology initiated a study to report the initial experience with teleophthalmology, using existing infrastructure, in a large tertiary care academic eye center during the first 4 weeks of the North Carolina statewide stay at home order.  

A total of 206 adult teleophthalmology visits were scheduled, 113 video and 93 telephone. Technical issues were minimal and 96.1% of scheduled visits were successfully completed with the majority being over video. Among nearly 200 completed teleophthalmology encounters for adult patients, 22 ophthalmologists over 6 services provided care to a broad range of patients spanning multiple diagnosis and age groups. These results were reported at the American Academy of Ophthalmology 2020 annual meeting. 

This initial experience with implementation, training and delivery of teleophthalmology suggests that it is a viable alternative for timely delivery and coordination of patient care across different subspecialties in emergency situations and is likely to have an expanded role in the future.