Optometrists across the country have introduced strict measures to help prevent exposure to COVID-19. These include conducting remote consultations where possible [i], closing doors to all but emergency cases [ii] and implementing floor markings as a reminder to observe the 2-meter distance rule [ii].
NHS Coventry and Rugby CCG and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust have adopted the same measures but have also embraced innovative Ophthalmology technology. Since 4th March 2020, GPs and Community Optometrists in this area have had access to Telephone and Photo Advice & Guidance from local Ophthalmologists. This service, which is provided by Consultant Connect, was expanded to include GPs in the NHS North Warwickshire CCG area on 20th April 2020. The aim is to roll it out to all Community Optometrists in North Warwickshire, Coventry and Rugby in the near future.
When a patient contacts them (either over the phone or via other means), the GP or Optometrist is now able to quickly establish telephone contact with a specialist. The average connection time for this specialty in this area is just 16 seconds. They can also upload retinal scans, OCT or visual field results via the Consultant Connect platform and receive rapid specialist advice.
The benefit of this service is that many patients avoid a referral to hospital and can be effectively treated in the community
In practice: Ophthalmology patient case study:
Feedback from GPs and Optometrists in Coventry, Rugby and Warwickshire has been positive. Eleanor Coxson, an Optometrist at the Eyesite Eyecare Centre has provided us with an example of how she has used the Consultant Connect App to help a patient recently.
Eleanor explains; “The patient was suffering with chronic eyelid dermatitis and his usual treatment regime was not alleviating his symptoms.”
Eleanor found (using the Consultant Connect App) very beneficial as “it provides immediate access to advice because your call is answered within seconds. It was helpful to talk through the patient scenario with an expert clinician.” Using Telephone Advice & Guidance on this occasion provided her with a “clear treatment regime to relay to the patient”. Furthermore, she states that “the option of including photographs or OCT images really helps to give a thorough presentation of your patient.”
Eleanor enjoys using the Consultant Connect App and has found it “particularly helpful during the current coronavirus situation where our usual referral pathways have been disrupted; enabling me to reduce unnecessary strain upon our hospital eye service.”