Clinical Outcomes of a Hospital-Based Teleophthalmology Service: What Happens to Patients in a Virtual Clinic?

Abstract

Purpose: Demographic changes as well as increasing referral rates from national screening services put pressure on available ophthalmologic resources in the United Kingdom. To improve resource allocation, virtual medical retina clinics were introduced in 2016 in Moorfields Eye Hospital, South Division. The scope of this work was to assess clinical outcomes of patients followed up in a virtual clinic setting.

Design: Retrospective database study.

Participants: Patients booked for a consecutive appointment in our virtual medical retina clinic.

Methods: Seven hundred twenty-eight patients booked for their second virtual clinic appointment in a tertiary eye care referral center between November 2016 and July 2018 were identified retrospectively from our electronic health records and patient administration systems. Information about disease grade and clinical and visual outcomes was assessed.

Main outcome measures: Clinical outcome of the virtual clinic visit, including virtual follow-up, urgent referral to face-to-face clinic, or discharge.

Results: Seven hundred twelve of 728 patients received a clinical outcome. Four hundred ninety-seven patients (70%) were eligible for further virtual follow-up after the second virtual clinic visit, whereas 15% each (107 and 108 patients) were either discharged or referred to a face-to-face clinic. In total, 661 patients attended their appointments in person and were reviewed by trained staff. Seventeen patients were referred for urgent treatment and 8 patients were not suitable for virtual follow-up. In 542 (82%) of all patients, diabetic retinopathy was the most common diagnosis.

Conclusions: This study reports clinical outcomes of a virtual model of care for medical retina clinics that imply safety of patient care in this clinic setting. This clinic format optimizes the use of already available resources and increases the skills of our existing workforce while maintaining high-quality clinical standards.

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