DON’T PUT YOUR VISION ON HOLD
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 FindAnEyeDoctor.ca.
“I worried for our patients who truly had an ocular emergency and did not know to call or email our clinic for urgent consultation.”