Over the course of several months in the early part of 2020, Glaucoma Research Foundation heard from many patients and eye care professionals who had concerns about glaucoma care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Statewide shutdowns impacted regularly scheduled eye exams, access to prescription medications, and broader concerns about health and safety.
To fully explore and understand glaucoma patients’ experiences during the pandemic-related shutdowns, GRF conducted a survey among our constituent database. More than 1,000 responded. Our hope is that the results will help inform glaucoma care as COVID-19 continues to evolve and we all adapt to new medical care procedures and requirements.
Some of the most interesting and useful findings from the survey include:
- Appointment Status: More than half of those who responded to the survey (53 percent) said they had to delay and/or cancel an eye care appointment during the first months of the pandemic.
- Confidence About Disease Management: About one-third of glaucoma patients did not feel confident that their disease was well-managed during the pandemic (36 percent said they were “somewhat confident” or “not confident”). Confidence level was not associated with respondents’ age, gender or geography, but was most significantly affected by appointment status. Those patients who had the lowest levels of confidence regarding their glaucoma management were 30 percent more likely to have had an eye care appointment delayed and/or cancelled compared to patients with higher levels of confidence.
- Use of Telemedicine: Glaucoma patients and their eye care professionals did not rely heavily on telemedicine during the first seven to eight weeks of the pandemic lockdowns (i.e., mid-March to early May). Just 4 percent of those surveyed said they were offered telemedicine visits, and fewer than 3 percent accepted. The lack of interest in virtual eye care visits could be attributed to patients’ strongly-expressed preference for in-person office visits as well as the lack of necessary technology (for example, smart phones and the ability to perform specific eye care tests remotely).
- In-Person vs. Telemedicine Visits: Given a choice between waiting six weeks for an in-person appointment once eye care offices are able to re-open and being seen via telemedicine in two weeks, 87 percent of survey respondents said they preferred to wait for an in-person visit.
- Feelings About Office Re-openings: Nearly two-thirds of those who responded to the survey said they are comfortable returning to their eye doctors’ offices (63 percent “somewhat comfortable” or “extremely comfortable”), assuming certain precautions are in place – most importantly face masks and less crowded waiting rooms.
In addition to sharing the National COVID-19 Glaucoma Impact Survey findings through this blog and news release, GRF is contacting organizations and publications that reach eye care professionals, to help ensure they have this valuable patient perspective.
Andrew Iwach, MD, who is GRF board chair and executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco said, “It’s helpful to have patients’ input regarding the measures we can put in place to maintain or increase their confidence and comfort as we return to more in-person visits. Eye care professionals are making significant changes to keep patients and staff safe, but the survey findings help us understand what may help them feel safe too.”
For more information about how to manage your glaucoma,please download or request our free 40-page booklet “Understanding and Living with Glaucoma.”
The National COVID-19 Glaucoma Impact Survey was supported by Aerie Pharmaceuticals.
Posted on July 14, 2020