BLOG - A Day in the Life of a "Virtual" Optometrist

"Virtual" Optometrist

The day-to-day for our optometrists has very much changed from the usual routine of asking "is it clearer with 1 or 2?" over and over each day to carrying out appointments remotely. One of our “virtual” IP qualified Optometrists Elaine shares some of her experience so far.

“I am working remotely mainly carrying out telephone consultations for emergency appointments. I have found this to be quite challenging at times but very rewarding as the patients have all been extremely grateful for our help and understanding of the circumstances.

Having to make a provisional diagnosis based purely on the patient's symptoms can be quite challenging however I have been amazed at how much information I can gather over the phone. I have also been using video calls and asking patients to email photographs of their eye to help aid diagnosis. Being a qualified independent prescriber means that I can issue prescriptions for patients directly helping reduce the burden on GP’s and the NHS. Using my NHS prescription pad I am able to email prescriptions anywhere in Scotland for the patient to collect, meaning we can treat conditions such as bacterial conjunctivitis, dry eye and corneal abrasions over the phone.

I can also manage more complex cases by giving advice or referring if needed. There are local emergency eyecare treatment centres (EETC’s) set up all over Scotland, which I can refer patients to if required. In Grampian, the EETC’s are run by qualified optometrists with appropriate PPE in the community, reducing the strain on the hospitals. The EETCs have been set up to use tele-ophthalmology. This modern technology allows the optometrist to work along with local ophthalmologists to examine and treat patients “virtually” without the need to attend hospital.

In an interesting case I had recently, the patient contacted us as they had a red, painful eye. Through carrying out a telephone consultation I was able to determine that the patient had raised pressure in the eye causing these symptoms. I referred the patient to the local EETC where they were seen by a fellow Duncan and Todd optometrist. It was confirmed that the patient did indeed have raised intra ocular pressure causing their symptoms of severe pain and redness. Tele-ophthalmology was used, and the optometrist was able to prescribe glaucoma medications to reduce the pressure to a safe level until the patient could be seen in the hospital for laser treatment