Social distancing measures are having a positive impact in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. They are also forcing change in the provision of healthcare. Ophthalmology, in particular, is conducted at close proximity, and it’s important to understand how that is being addressed. It is very likely that routine eye exams, check-ups and non-urgent procedures will be postponed for a few months. Communicate with your physician or contact the office to clarify their specific and updated policies.
We consulted with our colleague, Yale L. Fisher, MD, retina specialist and founder of Ophthalmic Edge, to provide an overview of changes to patient care initiated by the COVID-19 crisis. To help you navigate the new normal, here are answers to frequently asked questions.
What is considered essential, urgent or emergent care?
Essential care is required, by the physician, to maintain or improve an ocular problem that is known. The physician should be contacted to determine if the treatment must be given on a specific regiment during this period.
Urgent and emergent care is marked by symptoms causing a sudden deterioration such as eye pain, a change in vision or visual field, double vision, blurred vision or swelling. Contact a doctor immediately for advice, or go to nearest eye hospital or medical center providing emergency services.
How does a patient decide when it’s appropriate to visit an ophthalmologist during social distancing restrictions?
There are many reasons requiring ongoing treatment or determinations of disease progression. A phone call and discussion with the physician is the best way to assess that need.
How have ophthalmic office procedures changed?
Most physicians have already altered their routine procedures to include COVID-19 guidelines, incorporating social distancing as well as masks, hand washing and rapid visits.
In what cases can video visits or telemedicine be substituted?
Video or telemedicine is useful especially for external eye examination. Questions and answers are definitely enhanced by video and audio communication. Some tests cannot be performed without imaging, especially for retinal or internal ocular problems. In some cases a local wide field photo and other tests can be performed and sent for evaluation by your physician.
How are patients, staff and doctors protected from spreading Coronavirus?
The same techniques as performed in medical facilities including social distance, masks worn by all, hand washing, sanitizing of surfaces, instruments and equipment.
Prioritizing your health means staying safe and strong during the COVID pandemic. It also means dealing appropriately with healthcare matters that should not be put off. As always, communication with your provider is is key.