Strathclyde co-develops virtual consultations for eye patients

Pioneering virtual emergency eye consultations using technology co-developed by the University of Strathclyde are being rolled out in parts of Scotland in response to COVID-19.

Researchers at the institution have colloborated with NHS Forth Valley and NHS Grampian to develop a system which connects eye patients to a network of optometrists using a live video feed. It will ensure that anyone who goes to an emergency optometrist with a serious eye problem can be seen by a specialist straight away and immediately diagnosed and treated. It means that only cases which need secondary care are directed to hospitals, freeing up NHS resources to tackle the ongoing pandemic.

Dr Mario Giardini from the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, who developed the system in collaboration with NHS Forth Valley consultant and Strathclyde honorary lecturer Dr Iain Livingstone, said:

“The system has allowed a new way of working and will go from a number of selected pilots within hospital A&E departments to optometrists throughout the country.

“Selected optometrists will have devices attached to their equipment so they can connect to a specialist who will decide what cases need to come into hospital when there is an immediate threat to sight or life.”

Prescriptions can also be issued directly from the optometrist, with the range of conditions dramatically extended, again saving patients having to visit a specialist clinic, minimising travel, crowding of clinic, and potential for contraction of COVID-19.

Project Lead and NHS Forth Valley Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Livingstone, said:

“COVID-19 has completely disrupted traditional eye care and it is now critical to avoid unnecessary hospital visits, reduce crowded clinics, and treat patients in their own home. Modern mobile technology enables this.

“Personally, I think this is the most important development in modern eye care, catalysed by the present crisis.”