To be properly diagnosed, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), the leading cause of childhood blindness in the United States and worldwide, requires a time intensive process and significant coordination between ophthalmologist and staff. A recent study examining ROP diagnosis using indirect ophthalmoscopy versus telemedicine found that cases can be diagnosed and treated more quickly and just as accurately when visits take place remotely.
The findings reveal that: 1) ROP diagnosis by the ophthalmologist is significantly faster via telemedicine, and 2) there are significant time requirements by ophthalmologists making an ROP diagnosis during an office visit. In particular, additional time is taken for travel and communication with families and hospital staff. And in remote consultations, the entire staff may be more likely to meet at a specified time than during an office visit.
What's more, previous studies have shown that telemedical ROP diagnosis is highly accurate and reliable compared with ophthalmoscopy. According to senior author Michael F. Chiang, M.D., "Telemedicine has potential to improve the delivery and accessibility of care for infants with ROP by reducing geographical and logistical barriers. This study shows that it may also improve the efficiency of care for ophthalmologists."
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Given the increased number of at-risk infants in the United States and worldwide for this disease--many who don't have access to good physicians and hospitals--it's important that telemedicine be used to help prevent cases of avoidable childhood blindness, Dr. Chiang said.
Source: July 2009 American Journal of Ophthalmology