A trial of a ground-breaking virtual emergency consultation programme for eye injury patients has led to quicker treatment times and has removed the need for follow-up hospital appointments in more than half of cases, according to researchers.
The tele-ophthalmology system, developed by the University of Strathclyde and NHS Forth Valley, uses a live video feed to securely connect doctors, opticians and patients.
Using a mixture of three-dimensional printed technology developed at Strathclyde combined with the Scottish Government-funded Attend Anywhere Video Consultation Platform, eye doctors can remotely examine patients in emergency departments and opticians.
The trial, which started in April 2018, has now become part of usual practice in the Emergency Department at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert and in the Minor Injuries Unit at the Stirling Health and Care Village. It is also being trialled in one of the Scotland’s busiest A&E departments at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
NHS Forth Valley has received more than 80 consecutive video referrals for urgent eye problems, with the need for a second appointment deemed to have been saved in an estimated 50 per cent of cases.
Project Lead and NHS Forth Valley Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Iain Livingstone, said: “The system means that emergency cases are identified earlier and theatre teams can be mobilised more quickly, with treatment starting immediately when needed."
“When a colleague needs a steer on what to do, we can have a live view through their equipment, and connect them with a more nuanced plan, often preventing a trek to the eye clinic, and hours of waiting in a second waiting room."
“We can also institute urgent treatment remotely when it’s needed and can also de-escalate things," Dr Livingstone added.