As COVID-19 takes centre stage in the topic of global healthcare, specialist health departments around the world are already experiencing major patient backlogs.
In the Canterbury and Wellington regions alone, more than 1,500 elective surgeries have been delayed as a result of higher restrictions in placei.
In a sobering call with department managers after the move to Level 4, doctors at one of New Zealand’s busiest eye clinics were told quite simply “patients may lose further sight”. The need for ophthalmologists to be able to quickly diagnose and advise treatment plans, especially from a safe physical distance, is now greater than ever before.
New Zealand based social enterprise ODocs Eye Care already anticipated this need with the development of their MedicMind teleophthalmology portal, a free multi-platform and secure way to conduct virtual eye care consultations and referrals. Set up as a resource for GPs, optometrists and other frontline healthcare professionals, this digital technology enables real-time retinal examination via video or mobile conferencing, directly with specialist ophthalmologists who have the ability to diagnose and advise on further treatment if required.
The team have conducted real-time retinal examination as far as Scotland. Retinal findings were streamed live to specialist ophthalmologist Dr Iain Livingstone from NHS Forth Valley. The exercise was part of a pilot trial for conducting virtual acute ophthalmology services. Led by Dr Shweta Kaushik, there will be more practical trials being rolled out in West Sydney.
The need has always existed for healthcare departments to work smarter and more connectedly. Prior to the outbreak, the average wait time for public health elective services in New Zealand was around four months[i]. Patients will then typically experience overflowing waiting rooms on the day, sometimes not being seen at all. This is where virtual consultations through MedicMind will potentially reduce the number of patients travelling to hospitals and improve the wait times for those who need it most.
Fully funded by ODocs Eye Care, MedicMind is free to use with any mobile ophthalmoscope or a mobile retinal imaging adapter. For those who don’t have this equipment, ODocs can provide this as well as 3D print from their Dunedin base, cost effective slit lamp mobile adapters and ophthalmoscopes that are easy to use and compatible with any tablet or smartphone. This is Kiwi ingenuity at its best.
For more information on teleophthalmology visit www.medicmind.tech/teleophthalmology or visit www.odocs-tech.com
ODocs Eye Care and MedicMind are projects established by Dr Hong Sheng Chiong and Dr Ben O’Keeffe, whose mission is to end preventable blindness on a global scale.
The addition of the MedicMind’s teleophthalmology portal will make eye care more equitable and affordable.