J Fr Ophtalmol. 2020 Sep 22:S0181-5512(20)30392-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jfo.2020.09.002. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: The need for ophthalmologist appointments is increasing, while the number of practitioners is decreasing. Elderly patients, who may be dependent and isolated, are the most affected by this barrier to care. In order to get around this obstacle, telemedicine visits might be an alternative.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: From June 2018 to November 2018, patients in the housing facility for dependent elderly individuals (EHPAD) at the Janzé (Ille-et-Vilaine) Medical Centre participated in an ophthalmology telemedicine visit during their stay. The telemedicine visit included measurement of visual acuity, intraocular pressure, wide field fundus photography, and optical coherence tomography (OCT) performed by a technician, and a videoconference with an ophthalmologist.
RESULTS: Sixty-seven patients aged 83±8 years (60% women and 40% men) underwent a telemedicine visit. The visit was completed in 36 (54%) cases. The fundus photography was not performed in 30 (45%) cases, and the OCT was not performed in 35 (53%) cases. We diagnosed an ophthalmologic disease in 37 (55%) patients, with medical management having begun in 14 (38%) of them. A prescription for corrective lenses was given in 30 patients (45%). Following our visit, mean logMar visual acuity experienced a statistically significant improvement from 0.67 (±0.76) to 0.52 (±0.72) (P<0.0001) for distance vision and from 0.68 (±0.84) to 0.53 (±0.76) (P<0.0001) for near vision. Eighteen per cent of patients (10) required transportation to an in-person ophthalmologist visit for continued management. With regard to low vision, the proportion of low-vision eyes experienced a statistically significant decrease from 54% to 39% [P=0.02; OR=1.86; 95% CI (1.06-3.28)] following our visit.
DISCUSSION: This experiment allowed an isolated, dependent patient population without access to classic office visits to gain access to clinical care. In addition to providing eye care to the patients, the visit increased awareness amongst the caregivers of the vision status of the residents, allowing them to adapt their environment accordingly.
CONCLUSION: Telemedicine is an alternative to classic physician visits, particularly for very dependent, institutionalised patients. This experiment might serve as a point of departure for generalised adoption of these solutions within extended care facilities.