Virtual A&E eye service as safe as in-person triage

Moorfields Eye Hospital’s virtual A&E service is safe, effective and convenient, according to a study published in the peer reviewed journal, eClinicalMedicine.

Researchers from Moorfields Eye Hospital led the study, which is the first in the world to look at the safety of a video-based A&E service, found that Moorfields virtual A&E eye service delivers patient safety levels comparable to that of an in-person triage.

The peer reviewed study also suggests that remote video-based triage systems are safe for more widespread adoption, particularly when balanced against the risks of COVID-19 exposure.

Moorfields virtual A&E eye service was introduced within two days of the UK’s national lockdown being announced and has allowed thousands of patients to receive specialist emergency eye care whilst being able to stay at home. Patients are able to see an A&E doctor within ten minutes of logging on to the platform, which is available through the Moorfields website. The platform has a virtual waiting room where a ‘virtual receptionist’ can effectively prioritise patients and signpost them to the correct service.

Almost eight in ten people were able to get the treatment they need without travelling into hospital, with 95% of patients giving the service a maximum satisfaction rating.

Dr Gordon Hay, service director for A&E at Moorfields Eye Hospital said: “The virtual eye A&E platform has revolutionised the way we receive emergency patients and has been so successful that we will keep it running on a long-term basis. In many cases we have been able to divert patients directly into the most appropriate clinic or service, including services more local to them – avoiding over 10,000 return trips to London during the COVID-19 peak.

Dr Olivia Li, honorary digital fellow of the department of digital medicine at Moorfields Eye Hospital, commented: “Telemedicine is not novel, but COVID-19 has pushed us into adopting it at such a large scale. We are delighted to be able to demonstrate that our online eye A&E is safe for our patients as this was our main priority and we look forward to further integrations of tech into our clinical practice in future.”

Jennifer Slater, 68, has been treated at Moorfields for over six decades, but she suddenly became concerned about one of her eyes. She explains: “I was worried about my left eye and I decided to try and get a video consultation at Moorfields. I clicked on the link, followed the very clear instructions and within five minutes a doctor called me back. It was wonderful, I felt like I was in the clinic.

“The wonderful thing about the consultation is that you don't feel like you are miles away, it’s like you are in the clinic. It made me feel so much better knowing someone could not only talk to me but see me.”

Moorfields virtual A&E eye service can be accessed on the Moorfields website, and their on-site, face-to-face A&E continues to be open as normal.

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