GREENEVILLE – Two members of Tusculum University’s Niswonger College of Optometry are educating fellow professionals about best practices for treating patients with urgent eye conditions that cannot wait for care until the coronavirus pandemic ends.
Dr. Gregory Moore, associate dean for clinics at the Niswonger College of Optometry, and Dr. Richard Hom, a faculty member in health policy for the college, hosted their first webinar Thursday, April 2, and attracted participants from 34 states. The next webinar will be Thursday, April 9, at 6 p.m. Eastern Time and might attract an even larger, and potentially global, audience.
The webinars are free and conducted using the Zoom video platform. They are expected to continue weekly, with new information added to the presentations as more guidance and information come from leading authorities.
“During this period, when so many providers are trying to determine the best approaches to care while protecting their patients, their staff members, themselves and family members from the coronavirus, we thought it would be beneficial to share helpful tips with our colleagues,” Dr. Moore said. “We are offering recommendations that have been scientifically validated through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other respected sources.”
The presentation is called “Responsible ‘Social Distancing’ in the Examination of the Urgent Eye Patient during COVID-19.” Urgent eye conditions include vision loss or eye pain that a provider cannot triage over the phone and could be the result of conditions such as diabetes, glaucoma, corneal abrasions or an object in the eye.
Dr. Moore said optometrists saw many urgent eye conditions before the coronavirus numbers began leading them to significantly reduce their hours. As the time frame for the coronavirus continues to extend, the need for many patients with these types of eye maladies to receive care cannot be postponed longer.
“The examination of a potentially contagious patient balances the risk factor of both the patient and the doctor in minimizing the spread of any contagion,” Dr. Hom and Dr. Moore note in the presentation. “A workflow is proposed that reduces the chance of transmission among patients and staff in the clinical environment.”
Among the recommendations the two optometrists provide are:
- Plan to serve one patient at a time.
- Obtain an infrared thermometer.
- Use a glass or plastic barrier between the patient and staff at the reception desk.
- Have face masks and procedure gloves readily available for staff members so they do not have to leave a patient alone.
- Avoid referring a patient to a hospital emergency department because the chances of receiving an infection are higher than in an optometry office.
Dr. Moore and Dr. Hom also describe in extensive detail the personal protective equipment optometrists and their staff should wear and discuss disinfectants and hand washing. They say it would be optimal if the patient also wore a mask and gloves, and they recommend staff apply sanitizer to the patient’s hands upon arrival.
Since the first webinar, the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry, which serves 66 regulatory boards around the world, received Dr. Moore and Dr. Hom’s presentation. The association is planning on disseminating that information to those boards, which, in turn, can send it to their licensees.
Another organization that received the presentation was the American Academy of Optometry, which is placing the document on its website for consumption by its members.
“We’re honored to have this opportunity to help fellow optometrists and their staffs provide the care patients need without exposing anyone to the coronavirus, if at all possible,” Dr. Hom said. “This is a time when everyone must take the utmost precautions while the coronavirus remains a threat to people’s health and well-being. We strongly encourage our colleagues to use the valuable information we are making available and to participate in the webinar.”
To see up-to-date information on the next scheduled webinar, please visit www.tusculum.edu/optometry.