Background/Aims The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has imposed barriers to retinal care delivery worldwide. In this context, retinal services are exploring novel ways to ensure access to healthcare.
Methods We conducted a worldwide survey among retinal specialists between March 31, 2020 and April 12, 2020. The expert survey was developed on the basis of focus group discussions involving retinal specialists and literature searches. It included 44 questions on alternative ways of care provision including digital health domains such as teleophthalmology, home monitoring or decentralised patient care.
Results 214 retinal experts participated in the survey, of which 120 (56.1%) had more than 15 years of experience in ophthalmology. Most participants were clinicians (n=158, 73.9%) practising in Western Europe (n=159, 74%). In the majority of institutions, teleophthalmology, home monitoring and decentralised patient care have not been implemented before the pandemic (n=46, 21.8.1%; n=64, 29.9%; n=38, 19.1%). During the pandemic, the use of teleophthalmology and home monitoring increased significantly (n=105, p<0.001; n=90, p<0.001). In the subgroup of institutions reporting no teleophthalmology service before and implementing a service during the pandemic (34/70, 48.6%), reimbursement was the sole significant parameter (OR 9.62 (95% CI 2.42 to 38.16); p<0.001).
Conclusion Digital health is taking the centre stage tackling unpreceded challenges of retinal care delivery during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and may sustainably change the way we practice ophthalmology.
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Twitter Roy Schwartz@royschwartz.
Contributors All authors contributed to the conception and design of the study and the administration of the survey. LF conducted data analyses. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the data and the writing of the manuscript. All authors reviewed the manuscript and contributed to its revisions.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.
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