Teleophthalmology: An Essential Tool in the Era of the Novel Coronavirus 2019

Meghana Kalavar; Hong-Uyen Hua; Jayanth Sridhar


Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2020;31(5):366-373. 

In This Article


Teleophthalmology is meant to augment in-person visits, rather than serve as a replacement of in-person consultations. During these times, teleophthalmology provides an avenue to continue patient care and mitigate the surge of cases once ophthalmology centers reopen for nonemergent cases. Furthermore, the CDC reported 19% (9282 cases) of COVID-19 cases reported between February 12 and April 9, 2020 were amongst healthcare workers.[72] Though most were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, the healthcare workers were required to quarantine themselves. Given COVID testing limitations, this number likely severely underestimates the number of healthcare workers self-quarantining as a result of potential exposure to the virus. Telemedicine allows these doctors to contribute to patient care while isolating at home. Additionally, as positive clinical outcomes for many ocular conditions are dependent on early diagnosis and treatment.[73,74] we can utilize the strengths of already established screening and monitoring programs to ensure timely management.

Telemedicine has previously been shown to positively impact patient outcomes, be cost-effective, and have high patient satisfaction rates.[75] Although there was no major impetus previously to consider telemedicine as an alternative to aspects of in-person care, COVID-19 has necessitated patients and physicians to urgently explore and adapt to this technology. Adoption of teleophthalmology has skyrocketed, especially with decreased barriers in reimbursement and HIPAA privacy policies. However, there remains a need for more permanent policy and reimbursement solutions for teleophthalmology in the long term. Nonetheless, we are confident teleophthalmology will continue to evolve and will have an integral role in providing high-quality efficient care in the near future.