The Mother of Invention
Right now, the pandemic is radically changing the way we live our lives – but will it change the way ophthalmologists deliver care forever?
Aleksandra Jones | | Opinion
The only time I ventured out of my house last month (other than for “sanctioned” grocery shopping or daily exercise) was to donate blood. The center was eerily empty – social distancing guidelines and the need to operate at 40-50 percent capacity – but the staff were as welcoming and positive as ever. These days, blood donation is an essential aspect of our healthcare systems, but I recently discovered (lockdown is a good time to read…) that the catalyst for development was a moment of great global crisis: World War I. In 1917, in preparation for the Third Battle of Ypres, recent successes in transfusion, as well as the preserving and storing of blood, coupled with the need to rapidly treat wounded soldiers, resulted in the establishment of the first blood donation and storage facilities.
It’s sometimes difficult to believe that the crisis we are currently living in can bring about anything positive, but realization of longer-term change is starting to dawn.
Many ophthalmologists, faced with the cancelation of all elective procedures and non-urgent appointments, have started conducting virtual consultations; for Malik Kahook, whose Pandemic Diary can be found here, virtual health (VH) has suddenly become a day-to-day reality. Here, experts from Moorfields Eye Hospital explore the possibilities of using telemedicine to protect both ophthalmologists and patients during periods of social distancing – or in the event of quarantine or self-isolation.
Distancing regulations and guidelines are likely to last for several months in many countries (1). But will telehealth services become the “new normal” even when other aspects of healthcare get back on track? Rishi Singh, the author of this issue’s Profession article, encourages ophthalmologists to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a time to rethink some currently-used solutions and to explore innovative technologies.
I recently spoke with a glaucoma specialist who is acutely aware of the huge backlog of patients who will need to be seen when circumstances finally allow for it. Future predictions of greatly increased patient numbers and outstretched services are now a very real and immediate prospect for ophthalmologists around the world. Much like blood donor centers, what may have started as a forced necessity under exceptional circumstances could become standard practice in the long run.
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- SM Kissler et al., “Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period”, Science, [Epub ahead of print] (2020). PMID: 32291278.