Ophthalmology had the lowest use of telehealth among clinical specialties during the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online Dec. 1 in JAMA Ophthalmology.
Arman Mosenia, M.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues assessed telehealth use by clinical specialties during the pandemic. The analysis included 881,080 patient encounters from Jan. 1, 2020, through July 31, 2021.
The researchers found that in-person outpatient visits dropped by 83.3 percent across specialties at the onset of shelter-in-place orders for the COVID-19 pandemic, and the initial use of telehealth increased before stabilizing during the 18-month study period. Telehealth use for ophthalmology peaked at 488 of 1,575 encounters (31.0 percent) early in the pandemic and returned to mostly in-person visits as COVID-19 restrictions lifted.
Gastroenterology, urology, neurology, and neurosurgery had the highest use of elective telehealth, while ophthalmology had the lowest. For 126 teleophthalmology encounters with asynchronous testing, a change of clinical management resulted for 25.4 percent of patients and no change occurred for 72.2 percent.
“Additional study is needed to evaluate whether asynchronous testing outside the same institution could provide an effective and lasting approach for expanding the reach of ophthalmic telehealth,” the authors write.
One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
Arman Mosenia et al, Longitudinal Use of Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Utility of Asynchronous Testing for Subspecialty-Level Ophthalmic Care, JAMA Ophthalmology (2022). DOI: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2022.4984
David B. Glasser, Is There a Future for Telehealth in Ophthalmology?, JAMA Ophthalmology (2022). DOI: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2022.5130
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