Reviewed by Priya Tailor, BA
Telemedicine has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic in 2019, approximately 43% of medical centers in the United States were able to use telemedicine, in contrast to the 95% that reported their use in 2020.
New research indicates that this scenario has led to a greater patient acceptance of telepresence (RT; dual robots), a mobile video conferencing tool, during eye exams. In turn, this facilitates the continued use of such approaches to improve patients’ access to care in communities where care may be scant, according to lead study author Priya Taylor, BA, and colleagues from the Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Rutgers New Jersey Medical. School in Newark.
“Radiation therapy in particular has proven to be beneficial in triaging patients and can improve access to health care,” the investigators said. In light of the rapid acceptance of this type of screening, Tailor and colleagues conducted a study to identify changes in patients’ attitudes toward telemedicine consultations using RT during screening for vision-threatening disease before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Radiotherapy was performed in a community-based eye examination protocol before and after the onset of the epidemic. 25 subjects were included from July to October 2019 (median age, 32 years; 44% women) and 40 subjects from June to October 2021 (median age, 56 years; 55% women).
Screening volunteers measured blood pressure, visual acuity, and intraocular pressure and obtained 45-degree non-aqueous retinal images and optical tomography B-scans. Scans were reviewed by an off-site glaucoma specialist or retina specialist using either remote desktop software or cloud-based software. Tailor explained that subjects subsequently interacted with a specialist via RT and completed a 5-point survey on their consultation.
The investigators found that the average patient comfort level with RT was significantly increased (s = .038) during a pandemic. The mean values over the two time periods were 4.48 before the pandemic and 4.80 during the pandemic; There was a 22.5% increase in the proportion of people who reported 5/5 relief.
Subject age appeared to be a relevant factor in response to RT use. Older individuals were less likely to report higher rest before the pandemic (odds ratio [OR]0.903; s = .014) and most likely during a pandemic (OR, 1.075; s = .023). No significant difference in comfort was observed between the sexes in either group (s >.7).
“As telemedicine continues to expand in healthcare, our findings are very relevant and exciting,” Taylor said. “After the pandemic, even among these individuals [who] A preference for personal counseling was reported, and the average comfort rating was 4.68/5″.
Tailor explained that this indicates the appropriateness of continued use in community offerings. It also paves the way for the long-term use of telemedicine by health care centers and additional studies on [the use] Remote presence in triage, ophthalmology clinic operations and medical education.
“To our knowledge, this study is the first to compare people’s attitudes toward telemedicine intervention in real time before and after a pandemic,” the authors said. “We have shown that COVID-19 has led to greater comfort with RT in eye exams. The application of telemedicine in medical centers and community examinations should continue long after the current pandemic, as it is an excellent way to connect remote and underserved communities with valuable subspecialty care.”
Priya Khayat, BA
Tailor has no financial disclosures related to this content.
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