Eye Care in the Era of COVID-19
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
This blog post is to help update patients about what we are doing to provide you with eye care during the current COVID 19 crisis. We recognize that this is a challenging and anxiety provoking time for all and want to answer some common questions you might have. This is a fluid time and our answers to these questions may change. Please return to this post often for the most up to date answers. Our primary goal is to protect the health and eyesight of our patients, our community, and our healthcare providers as a whole.
Frequently Asked Questions
My appointment was cancelled. When will I be seen?
SLOEYE is reviewing the appointments on our schedules and tracking patients, their diagnoses, and the reasons for needing care. We will be contacting non-urgent/routine patients after the crisis and making appointments depending on severity of disease or reason for exam. We plan to have our offices open for extended hours to catch up on demand after the crisis. For patients with an intermediate need for care (not routine but also not urgent/emergent) we are coming up with creative ways to continue your care while keeping you safe and reducing your exposure to the public. We are using Tele-medicine and Tele-medicine plus targeted in-office testing to meet your needs. Stay tuned to this blog for updates. Thank you for being flexible and learning with us about new ways to accomplish eye care in the era of COVID-19
Why my surgery was cancelled.
All routine and not urgent surgeries have been cancelled. Surgeries will only be done on healthy patients if they have a strong probability of permanently losing vision without surgery. Although cataract surgery may seem very important as it can improve vision, a person will not lose vision permanently without routine cataract surgery. We will be happy to provide that service after the crisis is past. We appreciate your understanding and will work to access extra surgical time after the crisis to get all our patients taken care of.
I called during normal business hours but nobody answered the phone.
Please leave a message. We are checking messages regularly during business hours and we will call you back. We are operating the office with minimal staff to reduce exposure to all and to respect the “shelter in place” order.
I think I have an eye emergency. What should I do?
There is always a doctor on call. Currently during normal business hours we are checking our messages often. You can also reach us by email at email@example.com. Additionally, after hours there is a doctor on call. SLOEYE will contact you by phone and set up a phone call or Tele-medicine appointment with a doctor to assess the severity of your problem and advise you.
My appointment was cancelled and I was asked to have a tele-medicine appointment. I don’t understand, because the doctor can’t really look inside my eye over the telephone or video.
Tele-medicine allows us to better assess patients and determine what level of care they ultimately need in the future. Please see our link here to know how to prepare for you tele-medicine appointment. You will need to be prepared in advance and can test your vision at home prior to the tele-medicine visit using the instructions provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) here. We can cover quite a few issues in a tele-medicine appointment. By video we can see the outside of your eyes and assess eye surface problems. We can tell if a child’s eyes are straight and tracking properly. We can review your medications and give you instructions. We can determine the appropriate in office testing you might need and keep your contact with the public to a minimum if you do need to visit to the office. We can also discuss your concerns or health questions.
I am concerned about Tele-medicine and my insurance company paying for it.
The current recommendation by the government was that Medicare and all major insurers cover Tele-medicine the same as they cover office visits. If you have concerns, contact your insurance company. If your insurance company does not cover Tele-medicine, please let us know. SLOEYE is proceeding under the government’s assurance that these visits will be covered for patients.
I have a serious retinal problem and/or get regular eye injections. Will you see me?
If you are not actively sick with a fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or runny nose, we are seeing retinal patients with significant eye disease in the office. We are taking extra precautions to ensure your visit is shorter and safer, reducing your contact with other people. Please bear with us, your visit may be different, but we are working to protect your eyes and your health.
I am sick but still want someone to look at my eyes.
Due to the current recommendations, we will schedule you first for a Tele-medicine consult. A person who is actively sick and has an urgent /emergent problem can only receive care in a setting where personal protective gear is available and in this community that is a hospital. We will work with you to determine the urgency of care needed and advise you.
I have a cold/allergies/asthma and have a cough or runny nose. I’m pretty sure I don’t have COVID-19 and I still want to see the Doctor.
Please contact us for a Tele-medicine consult. Only doctors can determine if it is safe to see a patient in an outpatient setting. We realize this is very frustrating, however our population of patients is very vulnerable, and we want to protect as many patients as possible from contracting this very contagious disease.
I am worried the doctor or staff may give me COVID-19? Will the office provide me with a mask and/or protective gear for my visit?
We too are worried about this. It is possible for healthcare providers to transmit COVID-19 and we want to minimize that risk. Patients can also transmit COVID-19 to healthcare providers in the same manner. This is one of many reasons we are limiting visits to urgent /emergent reasons only. We are distancing patients in the office, trying to minimize our contact with you, fully cleaning every room and the equipment after every patient. We are hand washing and using hand sanitizer more frequently than ever before, and requesting that anyone with symptoms not come in to the office. Unfortunately, like most outpatient offices, we do not have extra masks or personal protective gear for patients. We only have limited supplies for healthcare providers and cannot use full personal protective gear for every visit. In an ideal world with COVID-19 both patients and providers would be in full protective gear, but that is simply not possible in this crisis.
I am sick, or was just sick, and plan to show up anyway because I want to be seen.
Please do not do this. You will endanger others unnecessarily. If we feel that you are sick or symptomatic when you show up we will not proceed with your visit. Please be assured that we will work with you to maintain your eye care in a safe manner.
I lost/broke my glasses or ran out of my contact lenses. What do I do?
Call our office during normal business hours and leave a message. We are extending recently expired prescriptions for both glasses and contacts. We can also mail glasses that have already been ordered. Visit our website here to place your contact lens order and have them delivered directly to your home.
My glasses are a bit blurry. I think they need to be updated and I want to see a doctor.
We do understand how frustrating that can be. Unfortunately, we now know the coronavirus lives quite well on surfaces and our glasses measuring devices are very difficult to adequately sterilize fully for this virus between each patient. Additionally, that equipment is in close contact with eyes and faces so this makes measuring multiple patients a day for glasses impractical. We ask you to be patient and make do with your old glasses until the crisis passes. Rest assured that we will work overtime and have extended hours in the future to get you seeing again. If you believe you have an extraordinary need for a new prescription please contact us and we will work with you if warranted (Example: a first responder or critical healthcare provider who cannot see adequately through their current glasses).
My friend’s optometrist or ophthalmologist in another practice is seeing routine patients. Why isn’t SLOEYE?
It is possible they are unaware of the current recommendations. At SLOEYE we deeply value the health of our patients and the community and are doing our part to prevent COVID-19 spread.
When will the office be open as usual?
Like you, we truly wish we knew the answer to that question! Based on the information we have, we anticipate only seeing urgent/emergent patients for several weeks (possibly a couple of months). We will regularly reassess the government recommendations and will be open as soon as restrictions are lifted. We will be so excited to see you all and get everyone back on the track to optimal eye health!
In closing, some non-eyecare thoughts…..
We are a nation of amazingly innovative and caring individuals. We will get through this together. Even in this very restrictive and difficult time there are positive things we can do:
Consider taking this time of “shelter in place” to slow down and spend time with those you love either in person in your home or virtually with friends and family by FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or phone .
Volunteer, there are many opportunities that do not involve leaving your home. Examples: Helping by online tutoring, online mentoring or a phone check in with vulnerable elderly member of the community. If you sew there are requests for helping make protective gear for first responders and healthcare providers (we will run out of the official gear, and these homemade products still offer some protection), donate to a homeless shelter or food bank if you can, be creative and look for what you can do to make a difference.
Keep in close touch by phone or video with an elderly friend, relative, or neighbor who may be lonely or anxious.
Be kind to those around you, offer support to others who may be struggling.
Improve your health by making healthy choices. Eat well, exercise, follow your doctors advice, hydrate, and sleep well. Support others around you in making healthy choices.
Take the time to finish long ignored chores/tasks around your house. On the back side of this, we should all have organized garages and closets.
Learn to cook healthier, cost effective meals.
Learn a new hobby or craft.
All small positive actions can help-even a small flickering light helps push back the darkness.
Stay healthy and safe!!
©2020 Rena Stathacopoulos