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The Case for Telemedicine

A Common Problem with ER Visits

“Will” wakes up with itchy, bloodshot eyes. 2 weeks ago (or really any day prior to March 24, 2020).

Will’s only option would be to call his optometrist (we’ll call her “Doctor Lucie”).  Hopefully he can see her in person that same week. He will go for his appointment to wait in the waiting room, fill out some forms, wait some more. Be seen and, if needed, head to the pharmacist…hopefully all that time was worth it.

In a time of uncertainty…in the midst of a shelter in place order…in a time where Emergency rooms and Emergency room physicians, nurses and staff need to be focused on the pandemic maybe  Will decides not to go?  Then he risks his eye condition getting worse. Maybe Will goes to the ER and transmits the Novel Corona Virus to others before falling ill himself?

This scenario is not meant to be fear-mongering, but rather it’s a way to set the stage for recent developments that took place over the past 5-10 days.

The Boom of Telehealth

First, Telehealth, a novel idea that few people took advantage of started being rapidly implemented by larger hospitals once the pandemic hit. Hospitals saw Telehealth as a way to screen for coronavirus and triage patients from a distance. Large hospitals offered to do this at no charge as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19. Counselors started doing tele-consults. Everyone got a ZOOM account overnight and teleconferencing is the norm. Sadly at the time of this writing, the novel coronavirus has spread far enough throughout Washington where Governor Inslee has urged a statewide shelter in place order and the national guard has been deployed to the state. Only the most urgent needs and essential workers (like healthcare workers leave their homes.

Will’s Telehealth Treatment at Tacoma Eye

Back to Will:  Will wakes up with his bloodshot eyes. He contacts Tacoma Eye during posted business hours.  Their process is simple!

  • The staff send him an intake form as if he were at the office in person.
  • Will provides his MEDICAL INSURANCE CARD (this is not an exam for eyeglasses or contact lenses, studies have shown those vision exams to be woefully inferior) and pays his deposit with a credit card.
  • He receives a link for his appointment by text or email.
  • The doctor asks him some questions and has Will use his camera phone to take photos in a mirror.
  • The doctor is able to perform a basic exam.
  • The doctor diagnoses Allergic Conjunctivitis from springtime pollen.
  • Will can go to a local Rite Aid to get some over the counter Claritin and Ketotiphen eye drops from the pharmacist.
  • The doctor calls Will in 24 to 72 hours to check-in.
  • Will improves. All while sheltering in place and only leaving when necessary.

There is a lot that has had to take place for this theoretical, virtual, problem-focused exam to take place. The doctor, patient and pharmacist need to work together in the name of public health.

We at Tacoma Eye are here for our patients and our neighbors. As healthcare workers ourselves it is hard to sit on the sidelines and know there will be Doctors and Nurses working harder than ever to combat a massive and incredibly contagious disease.

Tacoma Eye is possibly the first optometrist in the State of Washington or the City of Tacoma to offer Telehealth services.

We have the utmost respect for all essential workers and if this initiative means keeping even a handful of patients out of the emergency room so one more patient can get the care they need it will have all been worth it!

If you are experiencing Red Eye, Pink Eye, Itchiness, Sudden drop of vision please call 253-237-4967 you can speak to either our 24-hour operator by pressing option 2 or if calling during business hours you will speak to our front desk.

We can answer basic questions and triage your call.

As always if you are experiencing a medical emergency dial 911 immediately. Wanting your eyeglasses adjusted may seem like an emergency but for now, some things will have to wait.