Virtual glaucoma clinics are being used throughout the world in an attempt to help address the increasing glaucoma burden facing clinicians within public hospital systems. This study specifically evaluated patient and clinic setups in the UK.

Virtual clinics are where in-person doctor-patient interactions are replaced by two components. The first is a patient visit for clinical measurements, including visual acuity, intraocular pressure, visual field, OCT, and disc photography. The second component is the reviewing of results by an ophthalmologist, nurse specialist or glaucoma trained optometrist, and an outcome sent to the patient by letter. Specific criteria are usually set in place to determine patient suitability.

The authors found that nearly 95% of patients had confidence and satisfaction in the person conducting the test, and most (>90%) were likely to recommend the service to others. However, they also noted that 10% of patients were not happy to receive clinical results by post, and 12 % would have been happy to wait longer to see a doctor. There were also high levels of satisfaction reported among staff involved in the virtual clinic testing as well as the clinicians involved in reporting results.

The authors concluded that virtual glaucoma clinics can be acceptable to the majority of patients, staff, and clinicians. Dissatisfaction was primarily related to poor communication rather than the service itself.

Comment: At Greenlane Clinical Centre we set up a rapid-imaging virtual clinic to manage overdue glaucoma follow-ups (visual acuity, intraocular pressure (IOP), ocular coherence tomography only), which have dramatically increased due to the pandemic. We are currently transitioning to full virtual clinics that include visual field testing. The rate-limiting step is primarily technician and clinic availability. It is reassuring to see the high level of patient and clinician satisfaction with virtual clinics in this study.

Article: Virtual clinics for glaucoma care – patients’ and clinicians’ experiences and perceptions.
Gunn J, Marks J Au L, et al
Eye (2022) 36:209-218

Reviewed by Dr. Hussain Patel, a cataract and glaucoma specialist and senior lecturer with the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Auckland. Published in NZ Optics, Nov 2022

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