In recent years, wide-scale implementation of telemedicine has become possible owing to significant technological advances that allow its application in a variety of medical fields, including ophthalmology. Telemedicine is defined as the use of digital means and information sharing to provide health care from a distance. The emergence and availability of powerful hardware, advanced software, and fast communication technologies now allow ophthalmologists to diagnose and treat a variety of urgent and chronic eye conditions.
In ophthalmology, a high-volume specialty, telemedicine has the potential to improve patient experience, particularly in a primary care setting where access to specialists is not trivial and may offer a cost-effective alternative to face-to-face specialist consultation. Furthermore, a quick and accessible tele-consultation during patients’ routine primary care visit can highlight those in need of further face-to-face subspecialty care. This concept may play an important role in rural areas and poorly resourced countries and regions in which specialists required for screening and evaluations are often not available or accessible. Moreover, the use of telemedicine can be useful in other special circumstances when access to medical care is limited, such as during natural disastersor when social distancing is required, as in an infectious disease outbreak.
Teleophthalmology is an effective screening and management tool for a range of adult and pediatric acute and chronic ocular conditions. It is mostly utilized in screening of retinal conditions such as retinopathy of prematurity, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration; in diagnosing anterior segment condition; and in managing glaucoma. With improvements in image processing, and better integration of the patient’s medical record, teleophthalmology should become a more accepted modality, all the more so in circumstances where social distancing is inflicted upon us.