In the early stages of the pandemic when the offices were closed to the majority of patients, Eye Surgeons continued providing treatment for ongoing eye conditions like glaucoma and doctors were available to those needing urgent eye care. Safety was and continues to be a key priority for patient care.
New Center for Medicare and Medicaid rules opened up more possibilities for remotely treating patients. ESA doctors effectively devised and implemented plans for telemedicine/telehealth set up and introduced a new way to test intraocular pressure for glaucoma patients. Our Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist and Ophthalmic Surgical Assistant, Greg, hosted a drive-up IOP (Intra Ocular Pressure) test for glaucoma patients. Dr. Wagle then scheduled follow-up telemedicine visits for each patient to discuss their results and any other concerning issues that needed clarification.
Glaucoma is an eye disease typically characterized by elevated pressure in the eye that causes damage to the optic nerve and defects in the field of vision. The increase in eye pressure is caused by a reduction in the ability of fluid to drain from the eye. The cause of this blockage is unknown, however, as eye pressure increases, nerve cells which carry the information we require to see are damaged and gradually begin to die. As these nerve fibers or cells die, loss of vision begins. Peripheral, or side vision, is lost first and often goes unnoticed. Ultimately central or reading vision is affected and once vision is lost it cannot be regained.
When detected early, glaucoma treatment can generally prevent loss of vision but left untreated can end in blindness. During an eye exam, a painless test to measure eye pressure is performed. Most glaucoma patients are prescribed drops or an oral medication to lower the eye pressure to help prevent damage to the nerve and ultimate loss of vision. During the time that our office was closed, this necessary testing was not being performed as often as we would have preferred.
While doctors were communicating to patients via telemedicine, the inability to utilize pressure checks created some issues in monitoring patient eye health. Since regular eye pressure checks are crucial for managing glaucoma, we needed to find an alternative solution for testing. Eye Surgeons required mask wearing for all patients so eye pressure testing could be completed without the risk of spreading COVID-19. We purchased new technology – hand held tonometers to assist in our testing. This hand-held device measures intra ocular pressure (IOP) with unique, patented rebound technology and doesn’t require drops to be used for proper results. Three different patients chose to share their experiences with this new process below.
Thomas, a long-time patient of Dr. Wagle’s, claimed, “the new testing process worked pretty slick.” Greg met him at the front door, tested his eye pressure and within minutes Thomas was on his way home. Dr. Wagle followed up with a telemedicine call with his results. Thomas says, “I usually muddle my way through most technology, but the telemedicine visit was easy. I called in on my cell phone and talked to Dr. Wagle for five to 10 minutes. Due to the pandemic, I think this is the future of medicine. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.”
Another patient named Connie describes her IOP drive-up visit by explaining, “When they told us it was our turn, we drove under the canopy and the technician came out. I lowered my window and in 30 seconds, he had my pressure reading. Dr. Wagle then followed up with a telemedicine visit. The connection was simple and I’m not a real techy person.” When asked how she felt about the telemedicine visit Connie added, “It worked out well to review my pressures and they could answer any questions I had.”
A third patient named Sandy commented, “I found the drive-up IOP check easy and quick, and the staff was professional and polite. I drove under the awning out of the rain, put my mask on and rolled down the window. Greg reached in to perform the scan which was done in less than a minute. It was so reassuring to know I was receiving the care that I needed.” Dr. Wagle followed up with a telemedicine visit. “I just clicked on the link they sent to my phone, got a message that the doctor would be with me shortly, and sure enough he was. We spoke for five to 10 minutes. It was so nice to see a friendly face.” Sandy expressed of her experience.
“It’s amazing new technology,” shares Dr. Wagle. “It worked great because it gave a ballpark IOP figure and was quick and accurate. This allowed me to determine the level of concern for their treatment status.”