Vis­it­ing your Op­tometrist in their of­fice is not your only op­tion!


COVID-19 has shown us that life as we know it can come to an un­ex­pected halt. But your health has its own agenda and of­ten can­not be post­poned un­til a more con­ve­nient time. For­tu­nately, op­tometrists, as es­sen­tial health care work­ers, are able to still pro­vide you with the qual­ity care and safety that is the foun­da­tion of their pro­fes­sion.

While there re­main many in­stances where an in­of­fice visit is re­quired, there are a num­ber of eye con­di­tions that can be han­dled re­motely.

Telemedici­ne, where op­tometrists di­ag­nose and man­age eye con­di­tions by phone, email or video con­fer­ence, has been avail­able for some time. In the past many months, it has been used more fre­quently by op­tometrists so that they could pro­vide ur­gent care to pa­tients not able to leave their home. Op­tometrists are also able to write pre­scrip­tions for pa­tients re­motely.

The chal­lenge is that many On­tar­i­ans are not aware of this ser­vice. One op­tometrist writes of the pan­demic, “I wor­ried for our pa­tients who truly had an oc­u­lar emer­gency and did not know to call or email our clinic for ur­gent con­sul­ta­tion. Those that were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sight-threat­en­ing symp­toms [did] not know who to turn to or how se­ri­ous their un­treated con­di­tions could be.”

For­tu­nately, pub­lic aware­ness of vir­tual eye care is on the rise. Take the case of Stephen, who woke up with blood in his eye. A video call was promptly ar­ranged with his op­tometrist and af­ter a se­ries of ques­tions and video ob­ser­va­tion, the doc­tor iden­ti­fied a likely cause, steps to alleviate the dis­com­fort, and a plan of ac­tion should the symp­tom not re­solve. The vir­tual ap­point­ment ad­dressed Stephen’s fright­en­ing symp­toms and pro­vided re­as­sur­ance with­out him leav­ing home. This is help­ful not just for Stephen, but for the over­all health­care sys­tem.

Hav­ing the abil­ity to take a deeper look at your sys­temic health is what makes your op­tometrist such a crit­i­cal mem­ber of your over­all health­care team. In fact, your eyes are of­ten where cer­tain dis­eases and con­di­tions first show signs or symp­toms.

Fa­tima, for in­stance, con­tacted her op­tometrist af­ter a week of in­ter­mit­tent flick­er­ing vi­sion. Her op­tometrist spoke with her on the phone and asked ques­tions re­lated to Fa­tima’s health his­tory, which in­cluded mi­graines with aura, and high blood pres­sure. Typ­i­cally, such symp­toms would war­rant an op­tometrist’s ex­am­i­na­tion in or­der to rule out a de­tached retina. How­ever, these symp­toms seemed to sug­gest that some­thing else was go­ing on. The op­tometrist ad­vised Fa­tima to see her fam­ily doc­tor about the pos­si­bil­ity of high blood pres­sure. Fa­tima called her op­tometrist back later to con­firm that her blood pres­sure had in­deed been ex­tremely high and was now be­ing treated. She was sur­prised that what seemed like an eye symp­tom was in fact one that re­lated to her vas­cu­lar sys­tem, and grate­ful that her op­tometrist had iden­ti­fied this be­fore the con­di­tion be­came worse.

Cer­tainly, COVID-19 has been a time of chal­lenge, but also a time of com­ing to­gether. One op­tometrist writes, “There was a sense of unity among my col­leagues…. We knew that we could rely on one another for help and…that our pa­tients would be un­der great care.”

Whether in per­son or on­line, pa­tients can be as­sured that as the world emerges from the pan­demic that op­tometrists will con­tinue to be there for them to pro­vide the same great care that they have al­ways de­liv­ered. Please note that teleop­tom­e­try is not an OHIP cov­ered ser­vice, and as such, op­tometrists do charge a fee. How­ever, some in­surance com­pa­nies are now start­ing to pro­vide cov­er­age for this ser­vice. Please check with your in­surer or your em­ployer to see if you are cov­ered.

If you don’t al­ready have an op­tometrist, find one close to you through the On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Op­tometrists by vis­it­ing FindAnEyeD­oc­

“I wor­ried for our pa­tients who truly had an oc­u­lar emer­gency and did not know to call or email our clinic for ur­gent con­sul­ta­tion.”

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