Tele-ophthalmology for individualized patient care was un-common until recent national lock-down when regulatory and practice guidelines were made available. We present the perspectives of the pediatric ophthalmologists (PO) and their patients towards tele-ophthalmology, captured in the initial 6 weeks of this new era of legalized Telehealth.
A 15-item questionnaire for PO was administered through google forms and an eleven item questionnaire for patients was administered via a telephonic-call [Table 1]. All the patients were treated by chief author. Teleconsultations and online payments were legally compliant.
Survey of PO: Out of 60, 26 replied. 16 were females. Mean age was 37.1 years and 50% were in private-practice. The average experience of the respondents was 6.5 years. Eleven had started teleconsultations and 16 were aware of the regulations. Only 7 knew how to set up teleophthalmology practice. Twenty five favored the teleconsultation for non-vision threatening eye problems [Table 2]. An econsultation was preferred over video-consultation. Online-chat and telephones were not favored. The recommended fees for online consultations was 440.00 . The major concerns were lack of comprehensiveness, treatment compliance, overuse and medicolegal. Twenty-five respondents wanted to practice tele-ophthalmology.
Survey of patients: Out of 36, twenty replied. Twelve had video-consultations and 8 had econsultation/s. Nine patients had consulted for the first time. Mean age was 10.5 years. Mean satisfaction score was 92%. Seven desired to avail tele-consultation even after lockdown. All the patients felt helped and rated the reliability of diagnosis 88%. Eighteen recommended teleconsultation for eye emergencies during the lockdown [Table 2]. No patient was aware of government regulations. Recommended fees was 400.00.
The Cronbach alpha of the questionnaire for PO was 0.4, and that of the patients was 0.8. This pilot study demonstrated the need of tele-ophthalmology in pediatric eye care. Further studies with larger sample are needed.
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1. Last accessed on 2020 May 30 Available from: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/Telemedicine.pdf