​Breaking physical barriers with technology

You: "Doctor, I have red eyes."

Doctor: "Come closer so I can take a better look."

If this sounds like your typical eye related consultation, think again.

The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), a member of the SingHealth group, has been leveraging on the use of video conferencing technology, and piloting this project are glaucoma patients of SNEC who are in stable conditions.

Telemedicine is the buzzword of today and looks like it may very well be here to stay. SNEC aims to offer such remote consultations via video to 500 patients at the end of this year, and will increase capacity to target 3,600 by 2021. They will be pulling from an existing patient pool of 15,000 stable glaucoma patients, who average two visits a year. These patients form the bulk of all the glaucoma patients treated at SNEC, and they will have access to the telemedicine service if they opt for it.

As one of the leading causes of blindness for those above 60, glaucoma is what happens when high fluid pressure within the eye damages delicate fibres of optic nerves. Routine tests such as visual field exams and eye imaging are still needed, but these form the basis of the patient's case, and telemedicine comes in after this as a followup. It saves travelling and waiting time for the patients, and medicines can be delivered directly to them in the comfort of home.

With an aging population, SNEC has to cater for a growing patient load while utilising the same amount of real estate. According to Prof Tina Wong, Head and Senior Consultant of the Glaucoma Department, SNEC has seen a 40% increase in glaucoma patients from 2015 to 2019. She quotes, "We do a lot of imaging for glaucoma; having good photographs is as good as if I were to examine a patient physically."

Moving forward, SNEC has plans to offer telemedicine services to patients with corneal, retinal and neuro-opthalmology conditions and those suffering from myopia. As Prof Wong aptly puts it, "We all go into the digital transformation era because we have to adapt in times of adversity." So next time if you are heading out for a medical consultation, see if you can save yourself the trouble and try out telemedicine instead!

Ref: L20

Check out our other articles on glaucoma:

Glaucoma in Singapore

Glaucoma: Risk Factors, Symptoms and Treatment

Causes of Common Eye Problems