Could telehealth help eye care practitioners adapt contact lens services during the COVID-19 pandemic?Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2020 06; 43(3):204-207.CL
The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated government-imposed restrictions on social interactions and travel. For many, the guidance has led to new ways of working, most notably a shift towards working remotely. While eye care practitioners (ECPs) may continue to provide urgent or emergency eye care, in many cases the travel restrictions present a unique challenge by preventing conventional face-to-face examination. Telephone triage provides a useful starting point for establishing at-risk and emergency patients; but patient examination is central to contact lens patient care. The indeterminate period over which conventional practice will be suspended, and the risk that resumption of 'normal' practice could be impeded by a potential secondary peak in COVID-19 cases, hastens the need for practitioners to adapt their delivery of eyecare. Specifically, it is prudent to reflect upon supportive evidence for more comprehensive approaches to teleoptometry in contact lens practice. Smartphone based ocular imaging is an area which has seen considerable growth, particularly for imaging the posterior eye. Smartphone imaging of the anterior eye requires additional specialised instrumentation unlikely to be available to patients at home. Further, there is only limited evidence for self-administered image capture. In general, digital photographs, are useful for detection of gross anterior eye changes, but subtle changes are less discernible. For the assessment of visual acuity, many electronic test charts have been validated for use by practitioners. Research into self-administered visual acuity measures remains limited. The absence of a comprehensive evidence base for teleoptometry limits ECPs, particularly during this pandemic. Knowledge gaps ought to be addressed to facilitate development of optometry specific evidence-based guidance for telecare. In particular, advances in ocular self-imaging could help move this field forwards.