As Covid-19 takes centre stage in global healthcare, specialist health departments around the world are already experiencing major patient backlogs. In the New Zealand Canterbury and Wellington regions alone, more than 1,500 elective surgeries have been delayed as a result of higher restrictions in place.
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 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 anticipated this need with the development of the MedicMind teleophthalmology portal, a free, multi-platform, secure way to conduct virtual eye care consultations and referral. 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.
ODocs team has conducted real-time retinal examinations as far away as Scotland as part of a pilot trial for conducting virtual acute ophthalmology services. Additional trials are being rolled out in West Sydney, led by Sydney-based ophthalmologist Dr Shweta Kaushik.
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. Patients will then typically experience overflowing waiting rooms and sometimes not be seen at all. This is where virtual consultations, through tools such as MedicMind, can reduce the number of patients travelling to hospitals and improve wait times for those who need it most.
Fully funded by ODocs, 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 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
Dr Sheng Chiong Hong is a training ophthalmology registrar based in Dunedin and co-founder of MedicMind and oDocs Eye Care, which were developed to help end preventable blindness on a global scale by making eye care more equitable and affordable.