How are comprehensive ophthalmology practices responding to common ocular complaints from patients during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic as of April 30, 2020?
In this cross-sectional study of 60 US ophthalmology practices, there were fairly uniform responses to 3 common ocular complaints across comprehensive ophthalmological practices. Private practices were more likely to schedule cataract evaluations and patients with posterior vitreous detachments sooner than university centers, while all practices were likely to ask about COVID-19 symptoms when scheduling urgent visits.
These results suggest most practices were complying with the American Academy of Ophthalmology guidelines for scheduling patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has drastically changed how comprehensive ophthalmology practices care for patients.
To report practice patterns for common ocular complaints during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic among comprehensive ophthalmology practices in the US.
Design, Setting, and Participants
In this cross-sectional study, 40 private practices and 20 university centers were randomly selected from 4 regions across the US. Data were collected on April 29 and 30, 2020.
Investigators placed telephone calls to each ophthalmology practice office. Responses to 3 clinical scenarios—refraction request, cataract evaluation, and symptoms of a posterior vitreous detachment—were compared regionally and between private and university centers.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The primary measure was time to next appointment for each of the 3 scenarios. Secondary measures included use of telemedicine and advertisement of COVID-19 precautions.
Of the 40 private practices, 2 (5%) were closed, 24 (60%) were only seeing urgent patients, and 14 (35%) remained open to all patients. Of the 20 university centers, 2 (10%) were closed, 17 (85%) were only seeing urgent patients, and 1 (5%) remained open to all patients. There were no differences for any telemedicine metric. University centers were more likely than private practices to mention preparations to limit the spread of COVID-19 (17 of 20 [85%] vs 14 of 40 [35%]; mean difference, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.26-0.65; P < .001). Private practices had a faster next available appointment for cataract evaluations than university centers, with a mean (SD) time to visit of 22.1 (27.0) days vs 75.5 (46.1) days (mean difference, 53.4; 95% CI, 23.1-83.7; P < .001). Private practices were also more likely than university centers to be available to see patients with flashes and floaters (30 of 40 [75%] vs 8 of 20 [40%]; mean difference, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.22-0.79; P = .01).
Conclusions and Relevance
In this cross-sectional study of investigator telephone calls to ophthalmology practice offices, there were uniform recommendations for the 3 routine ophthalmic complaints. Private practices had shorter times to next available appointment for cataract extraction and were more likely to evaluate posterior vitreous detachment symptoms. As there has not been a study examining these practice patterns before the COVID-19 pandemic, the relevance of these findings on public health is yet to be determined.